Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez will benefit from MLB’s new Health & Safety protocols
Today, Major League Baseball and the Player’s Union reached an agreement on how the 2021 MLB season would be structured. Of the many protocols put into place for the upcoming season, one feature that hurt some offensive perfectionists is coming back– The in-game video feature. This is great news for Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez, as the prevention of in-game video last year resulted in a less-than-stellar year offensively.
The ability for a player to watch their footage in a way that prevents sign-stealing will be allowed in 2021 after being barred for all of last season. The footage advocate can breathe a sigh of relief knowing he can once again review any flaws in his at-bats.
Some other notable protocols worth mentioning include the return of the seven-inning doubleheaders and the presence of a runner on second base in extra innings, which both debuted last season.
Much to the dismay of the Players Union, the rules for 2021 do not include the universal DH which was hopeful to be integrated into the National League for the long run. As for the MLB’s desired postseason format, the expanded playoffs are not returning this season either.
As for the full MLB’s Health and Safety protocols, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand shared them earlier today. When the news that in-game footage would be prevented prior to the start of last season, largely as a result of the infamous Astros cheating scandal in 2017, Martinez was visibly upset with the decision. The DH questioned the league’s decision to take away this privilege, calling out MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in the process.
He has long been known to be one of the biggest advocates for using video footage to get to the bottom of why an at-bat went the way it did. Rather than shrug off a pop-up and hope for a better result, Martinez would go back and break the entire video down to see if something needed to be corrected with his mechanics.
In an interview last March regarding the impending ban of in-game video, Martinez had some words for reporters—
"“To take our game back 30 years, I think you’re not doing it justice. I think you’re just trying to do yourself a PR stunt,” he said. “It’s a joke. It’s gotten so ridiculous.”"
Clearly, the DH was worried if the lack of video would take a toll on his performance. Ultimately, the lack of video hurt Martinez’s game as his offensive output in 2020 compared to his productive 2019 season is quite evident.
In 2019, he batted .304 with 175 hits in 146 games. He also swatted 36 home runs that year. Then came 2020 without the footage. In 54 games, he batted .213 with 45 hits in 54 games. He only hit seven home runs over that span which would have put him on pace for far fewer longballs to his 36 in 2019 if 2020 were to be a full 162 game season.
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Other Red Sox hitters too, became familiar with Martinez’s in-game strategy as the DH’s extensive use of replay influenced several current members of the team to review their swings as well. It is safe to say that the absence of in-game footage reflected on more than just Martinez on last season’s roster. Several player’s batting lines regressed, but Martinez’s was clearly the most notable for a regular.
J.D. has become a de facto hitting coach is several players look to him for advice and tape breakdown. Now that he can do that in real-time, this offense should be back to what it once used to be. If the DH can rebound from an ugly 2020 season and regain his form prior to the prevention of the suspended in-game video, the lineup will once again have the offensive threat it lacked for the majority of last season.
It is clear he has every intention of putting last season on the shelf in hopes to rebound significantly. Martinez wisely exercised his option to remain with the Red Sox for the upcoming season, and now looks to prove that he can continue to produce numbers similar to those in the first two seasons of his five-year $110 million contract. On the other hand, a strong 2021 could see him exercise his final opt-out and his days in a Red Sox uniform may be numbered.