Detroit Tigers: 5 Signs Victor Martinez Will Have a Rebound Season in 2013
Martinez, who hit .330 with 12 home runs and 103 RBI in 2011 during his first season as a Tiger, missed the entire 2012 campaign and the Tigers offense struggled.
The Tigers' offensive woes weren't necessarily due to Martinez's absence and suffice it to say, even if Martinez had been in the lineup during Detroit's World Series embarrassment, the series wouldn't have been much different.
But there's no debate that the Tigers are a much more potent team with the 33-year-old slugger in the lineup.
Martinez is expected to make a healthy return in 2013 with a fully-healed knee, and joining a scary lineup on paper, the 10-year veteran could be in line for his best season yet.
Here are the five signs Martinez will have a rebound season in 2013.
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Martinez has been successful in the Major Leagues year-in and year-out for 10 seasons.
He will be 34 next season, and producing at the highest level gets astronomically more difficult if you miss an entire season, but if you've batted .300-plus year after year for a decade, you find a way to pick up where you left off.
It might take Martinez a few weeks, or possibly even a couple months to get back to normal, but more likely than not, Martinez will find his stride and produce in the torrid fashion that he has his entire career.
In 10 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Tigers, Martinez has a career .303 average with 143 home runs and 741 RBI. He's hit at least 15 home runs six times in his career, and has driven in at least 103 runs four times.
Martinez has a fantastic eye at the plate, earning almost as many walks in his career as strikeouts. He's drawn 457 base-on balls, compared to 533 K's, and has a .370 career on-base percentage.
He knows how to hit, and a little rust won't keep him down for too long—if at all. Martinez will continue to put up the numbers he's accustomed to and greatly help the Tigers at the plate.
Plenty of Rest
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Rumors circulated from the time Martinez got hurt, and continued all season, that he could be back sometime in 2012.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Martinez wasn't healthy enough to return for their run at the World Series last season, but because he wasn't hurried back, Martinez's rest bodes well for an even better return in 2013.
If Martinez had found his way into the lineup in 2012, he would've joined the Tigers in a pressure-packed situation. Whether his return had come during the pennant race against the Chicago White Sox, or in the postseason, Martinez would have been counted on to produce immediately.
In any case in the second half a season ago, conditions wouldn't have been optimal for a player returning from a major injury. Although Tigers fans hope it doesn't take Martinez a lot of time to re-gain his timing at the plate, when a player comes back from being out for an extended period, there is an adjustment period.
There's no time for adjustments when your team is on the brink of elimination.
When Martinez returns by Opening Day next season, the stakes will be much lower, and he'll have the benefit of an entire Spring Training to help him find his stride.
The Tigers would have loved to have had Martinez for their postseason run last season, but in hindsight, the extended rest was advantageous for him.
No Playing the Field
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Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski said he doesn't anticipate the need for Martinez to spend any time playing behind the plate.
"We do not look at him as a catcher at this point," Dombrowski said to MLive.com's Chris Iott. "We look at him as a DH, maybe play some first base if you give Prince a day off and decide to DH him, which doesn't happen very often. He can do that."
Martinez being able to focus solely on his bat will not only give him the opportunity to get extra swings in the cage when the Tigers are on defense, but the stress catchers have on their body takes a toll, and Martinez won't have to worry about that either.
He will be able to give 100 percent of his energy on his swing, timing and everything else at the plate, which for someone coming back from a long absence, is extremely beneficial.
No DH Controversy
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With Martinez back, primarily as Detroit's designated hitter, and the Tigers having parted ways with Delmon Young, Martinez theoretically won't have to prove anything to anyone, and won't have to look over his shoulder thinking if he doesn't produce there will be someone breathing down his neck.
Martinez's career numbers—especially as of late—are head-and-shoulders better than Young's, and Martinez doesn't bring nearly as much baggage to the clubhouse as Young does.
It's a no-brainer that if you have a healthy Martinez, Young becomes obsolete and expendable, which also allows Martinez to better relax, and doesn't create an extra headache for Leyland.
In a 162-game season managers face countless questions regarding the lineup, playing time and keeping players happy, and by penciling Martinez's name into the lineup at DH everyday, everyone's lives become a little bit easier.
Talent in Front
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Martinez, who has 741 career RBI, will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs in 2013 with the star power that will be on the bases when he comes to the plate.
Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder all had career years one way or another last season, and with the addition of Torii Hunter who will be likely be inserted into the No. 2 spot in the lineup, Martinez, who will hit fifth, will have the best top-four combination in the league in front of him.
Jackson hit .300 last season with a .377 on-base percentage, while Cabrera's OBP was .393 and Fielder boasted a .412 OBP. Enter Hunter, who has a .365 career OBP, and had a massive year in 2012, reaching base in over 36 percent of his at-bats.
When players are constantly on base, not only are there obvious scoring opportunities, but it also gives pitchers something extra to think about and gives them less margin for error.
Martinez has been on some good teams in his career, but he's never batted behind the collective amount of talent the Tigers will boast in 2013.