When he hit his home-run last night, J.D. Martinez tied Luis Gonzalez 16-year-old record for the most homers in a single calendar month. He has hit 13, and with more than a week left to go, nobody would be surprised if the mark fell. But it’s not “Just Dingers” - though they certainly help! Martinez is batting .400 for September, an elite mark achieved by only seven other Diamondbacks with 50 PA in a month. All told, his OPS of 1.439 is the highest ever achieved by an Arizona hitter (again, min 50 PA), surpassing the 1.350 put up by Gonzo in April 2001. Here are details of the top ten.
Best months in Diamondbacks history
To go through each component of the triple-slash in turn. First, there’s Martinez’s .400 batting average. Never mind 50 PA, sustaining that through more than eighty is even more remarkable. Only two D-backs have managed that over a calendar month: Gonzo, who hit an astonishing .417 over 123 plate appearances in June 2001 and Greg Colbrunn, who was even better, batting 426 in 88 PA the previous August. OBP is likely the only area where you could criticize Martinez, because that .439 figure barely scrapes into the top fifty for D-backs with 50+ PA in a month, at #47. Paul Goldschmidt alone occupies TEN of the spots above Martinez.
But then there’s the slugging percentage of exactly 1.000. A thousand is the gold standard for on-base plus slugging percentage, never mind SLG alone. No batter has slugged 1.000 over a month since Barry Bonds was in his drug-fuelled heyday: he did so in both April and August of 2004. Indeed, over the past eleven years, no player has sustained even .920 for a full month, the last being Chipper Jones, at .984 in July 2006. [Interestingly, Martinez is joined above that level this month by the Indians José Ramírez, who has an OPS of .931] There are still games left, of course, so JD would need to continue his epic tear. But, boy, has it been fun to watch.
All told, Martinez’s OPS of 1.439 is the best by any major-league hitter with 50+ PA since Chipper’s assault. Jones also batted .500 for the month, giving Jones an OPS of 1.484. But the all-time mark is likely forever out of anyone’s reach, though it certainly deserve an asteroid-sized asterisk. It’s that Bonds guy again, over the first month of 2004. He hit ten home-runs. So what’s the deal? That was in only 53 at-bats, because pitchers simply wouldn’t throw to him. His K:BB ratio was 6:39. Yes, that’s the right way round. 39 walks. Six strikeouts. It gave him an OBP of .696; coupled with an SLG of 1.132, the resulting OPS was 1.828. BALCO needs no more ringing endorsement.
Whether or not J.D. Martinez returns to the D-backs next year, we don’t know. I’m steeling myself for the inevitable disappointment, knowing that each home-run jacks up his value in the free-agent market, and thus makes it less likely he’ll sign for Arizona. But right now, the same goes for Martinez as for the entire 2017 D-backs season: I’m simply delighted to be enjoying the ride, and will take it to the end, wherever and however far that may be.