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2023 Dodgers in review: J.D. Martinez

Veteran DH hit 30 home runs for the first time in four years

Division Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v. Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

J.D. Martinez thrived with the Dodgers in his first season back in the National League since 2017.

Though Martinez struggled to find his footing in the first three weeks, hitting just .231 with a.278 on-base percentage through the first 17 games with just a single home run, he finished the month with four home runs and an OPS of .840 before landing on the injured list with lower back tightness.

When Martinez returned to the lineup on May 12, he found his power stride that made him one of the premier power hitters during his first two years with the Red Sox, as he connected for eight home runs in 80 plate appearances while amounting to a .311 average in the month of May. By that time, Martinez’s .611 slugging percentage led the National League and was second in the majors, trailing only Aaron Judge.

With his power surging, Martinez was selected to his third consecutive All Star appearance, and the sixth appearance in his career, serving as the starting designated hitter for the NL All Star team.

Martinez was once again placed on the IL in August due to groin tightness, leaving him inactive for nearly a month. August was by far his worst month as a Dodger, as he slashed just .200/.300/.304 with three RBI and two doubles in just seven games played.

Once he was activated on September 8, Martinez had arguably his best month with Los Angeles. He hit .355/.393/.724 with eight home runs and 25 RBI in the 20 games he appeared in the month of September, before going hitless in the final game of the regular season on October 1. He won National League player of the week honors for the week of September 18-24.

Martinez reached the 30-home-run mark for the first time since the 2019 season and was one of four Dodgers on the year to reach 100 RBI, marking the first time in franchise history that four players reached the century mark in a single season. Martinez became the first Dodger to connect for 30 home runs in their first season with the team since Max Muncy’s first season as a Dodger in 2018.

Even with the anemic offense the Dodgers provided in this year’s postseason against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, Martinez was one of the most productive hitters in the lineup. He connected on the Dodgers’ lone home run of the postseason and compiled an OPS of .833 in the three-game series

Since the 2014 season with the Tigers, there has only been one full season where Martinez has connected for less than 20 home runs, with that season being his final season with Boston in 2022.

Martinez surpassed his 2022 total (16) in the first half of 2023 alone, eventually reaching 30 home runs for the fifth time in his career. With the uptick in power came a decrease in patience at the plate.

Martinez has never been a hitter who’s attempted to lead the league in on-base percentage, but proved before that he can reach on base at an elite level, as shown by his .402 OBP in 2018 with Boston.

It’s been a gradual decline for Martinez to work his way on base without needing to make contact, as his walk percentage dipped to 7.1 percent, the lowest mark since his first season with the Tigers in 2014. Martinez’s on base percentage hovered around .300 throughout the majority of the regular season, ending at a .321 clip, the lowest mark in a full season since his 2013 with the Astros.

As the walk rates have declined, inversely, the strikeout rates have reached career highs. With a career strikeout rate just under 25 percent, Martinez struck out 31.1 percent of the time in 2023, the highest of his major league career.

Despite the relative lack of plate discipline, Martinez arguably had his best power season of his career. He didn’t set a career high in home runs or extra base hits, but Martinez demonstrated a profound ability to hit the ball hard and hit the ball in the air.

Martinez recorded his highest average exit velocity of his career (93.4 mph) while also launching the ball on average at a 16.8 degree angle, similar to his 2021 season with Boston. Martinez also tallied the lowest soft contact rate of his career, with a 7.5 percent clip, and hitting the ball with authority in 92.5 percent of his at bats, the highest combined total of his career.

Martinez tallied the second-highest isolated power (ISO) of his career (.301), behind only his ludicrous 2017 campaign (.387) that saw him clobber 29 home runs in a two-month stint with the D-backs after the trade deadline.

2023 particulars

Age: 35

Stats: .271/.321/.572, 33 HR, 103 RBI, 34 BB, 27 2B, 135 wRC+, 1.9 rWAR, 2.2 fWAR

Salary: $10 million

Game of the year

In a season in which Martinez recorded both his 300th career home run and his 1,000th career RBI, there were three instances where he had a multi-home run game. His standout performance was September 18 against one of his former teams, the Tigers.

The focus of the pre-game ceremonies was on future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, who played in his final series at Dodger Stadium. His former teammate Martinez stole the show, ambushing another former teammate, Eduardo Rodriguez for two home runs in the first three innings.

Martinez ended the night with three hits in four at bats, driving in a run every time he got on base. Martinez finished with five RBI on the night, the most he had in a single game with the Dodgers, and nine total bases, the third-most he recorded in a game this season.

Martinez hit five more home runs in the month of September after that game, while he raised his OPS by 30 points to bring it at over .900 before dipping back below on the final game of the regular season.

Roster status

Martinez will be a free agent this week, the day after the World Series ends.