Bradley David Ausmus, the time has come to make a change in Detroit’s lineup at cleanup. Switch Victor Martinez with J.D. Martinez.
Victor, who has largely served as the cleanup hitter since 2014, was an impactful bat for the lineup at first, providing above-average protection for two-time American League MVP Miguel Cabrera.
He also provided more than adequate protection for former Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder in 2013.
In fact, from 2011-14, omitting 2012 when he missed the entire season, V-Mart played in at least 145 games, and recorded an OPS of at least .785. This included an All-Star Game appearance and career-highs in home runs (32) and OPS (.974) in ‘14.
In ‘14, he was already 35, and considered to be nearing the end of his ultra-productive days at the plate, though. Now, at the advanced age of 38, he is clearly past his prime.
For further proof, just look at his numbers from 2015 until now. During that span, he has produced a mediocre .748 OPS.
During the same period of time, J.D., who played for the first time in 2017 this past weekend against the L.A. Angels, has produced an OPS of .898.
J.D. also has more home runs in three games than V-Mart has produced in 34 games this season. J.D. has produced two big flies, while V-Mart has one.
Now, some fans might have wanted to see J.D. take the cleanup spot from V-Mart in the 29-year-old’s first game back or at least in one of the three games he played in versus the Halos.
However, I’ll defend Ausmus in this regard: It’s worth it to make sure J.D. looks healthy at the plate before giving him the ultra-important job of protecting Cabby.
After seeing J.D. play the role of hero Saturday with two home runs, including the game-winner, it’s hard not to think that he deserves a shot at supplanting V-Mart as the everyday No. 4 hitter.
And maybe you think Justin Upton, with his eight home runs and .903 OPS, should have already replaced Victor as the fourth hitter in the Tigers’ order, especially when you look at Martinez’s sub-.700 on-base plus slugging mark (.683).
I would not have had any problem with Ausmus making that change.
But J.D. is still more deserving of being the “heir apparent,” and not just because of having the same last name. He recorded a higher OPS than V-Mart from 2015-16. J.D. finished with OPS marks of .879 and .908 in ‘15 and ’16, while V-Mart ended up with OPSs of .667 and .826.
The same can’t be said about J-Up in both of those campaigns. Upton finished with OPSs of .790 and .775 in ‘15 and ’16, respectively.
Upton’s stats this season, which make him deserving of an All-Star nod, do prove that he should retain his No. 5 slot in Detroit’s lineup, though. By the way, he hasn’t batted in any other spot in the Tigers’ order in 2017.
What does it mean for V-Mart? It means that Ausmus needs to start penciling him into the No. 6 spot.
And with the Tigers returning to Comerica Park for a six-game homestand today (with three against the Baltimore Orioles and three against the Texas Rangers), it’s the perfect time for V-Mart to start hitting sixth and for J.D. to become the cleanup hitter.
Make it happen, Brad, and you might have a chance of keeping your job for 2018.