Coming off an injury that sidelined him for all of 2012, Martinez will be the full-time designated hitter and spell Prince Fielder and Alex Avila either at first or behind the plate.
Martinez will most likely bat fifth in the order behind Miguel Cabrera and Fielder in place of Delmon Young. A free agent after last year, Young signed with the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason.
The Tigers struggled to win 88 games last year because of their inability to score runs, finishing sixth in the AL with 726.
Detroit grounded into a whopping 156 double plays, leading the league. With the league’s second-highest on-base percentage of .335, the Tigers could not capitalize that into run production.
Martinez’s return to the lineup should see immediate benefits for the Tigers.
Martinez walked 46 times in 2011 compared to Young’s 20 times last year while striking out 51 times as opposed to Young’s 112. That alone should make a difference batting in the heart of the Tigers lineup.
While he will not match Young’s power, he will hit for a better batting average—perhaps even 70 points higher than what Young did last year.
In his one season in Detroit, Martinez hit for a .330 average. Even if he just hits .300, that is still 40 points higher than Young’s .260.
Strikeouts are an unproductive out. Unless the catcher cannot handle the third strike, a strikeout will never advance a runner. If Martinez can put the ball in play 61 more times than Young did last year, that gives the Tigers that many more chances to score, even if Martinez cannot reach base.
The one metric that Martinez does not beat Young on, however, is grounding into double plays.
In 2011, Martinez grounded into 20, the same total that Young grounded into last year. That number did not even lead the team. That honor—as most diehard Tiger fans would tell you—goes to Miguel Cabrera and his 28 GIDPs.
The combination of world-class starting pitching and six potential hitters that can hit .300 should mean that the Tigers should waltz into the playoffs. But, as last year well shows, the potential does not always meet the reality.
This is where Martinez can show his worth. He is a smart hitter that does not swing at bad pitches and has some power. He may not have the power that Young had, but his ability to reach base will help those hitting behind him have better chances to drive in runners.
It would not be fair to say that Martinez is under any more pressure than the rest of the team in having a good year, but his successful return to the lineup will make it easier for the Tigers to score more runs and take the pressure off their pitchers to win games.