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Analyzing JD Martinez, The Hitter

Wait, the Dbacks won a trade?

Detroit Tigers v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

How convenient for AZ to pull off a trade Tuesday night, knowing that I was out-of-town (in Cincinnati of all places, but sadly I couldn't make the game) and couldn't write an article yesterday! In this trade, the Diamondbacks acquired one of the game's best hitters at a very, very low cost. JD Martinez may only be here for 69 games and the playoff(s), but his impact can be huge. Just how good of a hitter is JD Martinez?

The Past

Since 2014, JD Martinez ranks 9th in the MLB in wRC+. Over that same time, JD Martinez also ranks 9th in the MLB in OPS+ (notice how Goldy is 4th and 3rd, respectively). Essentially, since the start of 2014, JD Martinez has been within about 5% as good as Goldy as a hitter. That's really damn good.

Plate Discipline

There are good signs to be seen here, too. In Martinez's breakout season in 2014, he posted a 6.3% BB% and 26.3% K%. He has steadily increased his BB% every year since 2014, currently sitting at 12.5%. Meanwhile, his K% has dropped in 3 out of the last 4 years, currently sitting at 23.3%. These are backed by steady decreases in O-Swing%, Swing%, and Zone% with a mild improvement in Contact%. Essentially, pitchers are throwing him less strikes, he's chasing less balls out of the zone, and when he does swing, he's making more contact. Generally, these are all improvements and important skills for an aging hitter.

Platoon Splits

JD Martinez is a righty so he's naturally going to be better against LHP than RHP. And man, does he mash LHP. In fact, since 2014, JD Martinez ranks 5th in wRC+ against LHP with 168. And guess who just happens to rank 4th? Paul Goldschmidt. When it comes to RHP, JD Martinez is 9th among right-handed batters. Essentially, Martinez is great against both RHP and LHP and is a lefty-killer. Speaking of LHP, the Diamondbacks rank dead last in wRC+ against southpaws this year. JD Martinez suddenly fills in a huge weakness for the team, offensively (if you recall, I mentioned the need for RH power in my post last week, though I didn't think we'd go as far as JD Martinez...).

Batted Ball Profile

JD Martinez is one of the players that overhauled his swing in an attempt to generate more flyballs. And he succeeded. Since 2014, JD Martinez has a 39.0% FB% - the next highest Diamondback, since 2014, is Nick Ahmed at 34.5%. Now, flyballs aren't a simple magical recipe for success, but you need to hit flyballs in order to hit homers and extra base hits, so it is a promising sign that Martinez is able to frequently tap into his power. Continuing on his flyball approach, JD Martinez also has a 20.7% HR/FB%, good for 17th-best in the majors over this period. Again, another sign of how good Martinez is. Interesting enough, Goldy and Tomas both sit just ahead of Martinez at 20.8%.

And of course, we wouldn't be going anywhere if I didn't bring up Hard%... where JD Martinez ranks 3rd since 2014. And yes, that is higher than Paul Goldschmidt. And since I can't stop bringing up Goldy in every stat I mention (seriously, they keep showing up next to each other), let's go look at BABIP. Oh, that's right: Paul Goldschmidt is first and JD Martinez is second.


Sorry, I get really excited when I get to look at Statcast data. Unfortunately, I can't view Statcast on my work computer so I have to use my phone and therefore, can't give you any links. So you'll either have to trust me or go look it up yourself. Furthermore, we don't have much data (really only 2016 and half of 2017 so far) and we can't combine 2016 and 2017 very easily, so I'm gonna talk about his 2016 numbers.

  • In 2016, JD Martinez had an average exit velocity of 91.4 MPH, higher than any Diamondback besides Mitch Haniger (still sad we traded him). Yes, higher than Goldy and Lamb.
  • He averaged 96.1 MPH on flyballs/linedrives, higher than every Diamondback except Peter O'Brien (meh). Lamb was at 96.0 MPH, for comparison.
  • JD Martinez had a barrels/BBE% of 14.2%, again higher than every Diamondback except Peter O'Brien (go away please). For comparison, Lamb was at 11.8%, Tomas was at 10.6%, and Goldy was at 8.0%.

So What Does This All Mean?

I just spouted out a bunch of stats at you and they all showed that JD Martinez ranks among the MLB best in those categories. But it all comes down to this: the Diamondbacks just acquired a better power hitter than Goldy. Take a moment and let this sink in:

When it comes to hitting for power and making hard contact, JD Martinez is better than Paul Goldschmidt.

Now, don't get me wrong - Goldy is a better overall hitter, though not by a ton, because of his elite plate disicpline and approach. And Goldy is a better overall player than JD Martinez because of his slight offensive edge and superior defense and baserunning. But Martinez has elite levels of power and batted ball tendencies that are combined with a very, very solid plate disicpline (with his BB% now approaching elite levels if he maintains it over 12%). Martinez can very easily outhit Goldy and carry the offense for stretches at a time. This is a huge upgrade for the team and could very well be more than the roughly two wins most projection systems give Martinez over the rest of the season.

I know the easy thing to do is compare Martinez to Adam Dunn or Mark Trumbo but those aren't good comparisons. Adam Dunn had a 130 wRC+ when we acquired him from Cincy. The highest Mark Trumbo has ever posted was a 124 wRC+. JD Martinez is a significantly superior hitter to either Dunn or Trumbo. He may not have their name recognition but I hope that after reading this post, more people might come to realize just how damn good of a hitter JD Martinez actually is.