Videos by OutKick
Red Sox slugger JD Martinez claims launch angle isn’t ruining baseball. He instead points to another issue: pitching evaluation.
It may not a popular take, but I’ll help explain why he may have a point.
“A lot of people are very quick to blame launch angle, ‘Oh, the launch angle is ruining baseball,’ but I don’t think that has anything to do with anything,” he said. “I think the media has to dive into how the game has changed. How pitchers have pitched differently in the last couple years.
“This is a ‘stuff over command’ league.”
And that’s why he believes strikeouts are up
That actually makes sense. All old school baseball fans want players to drive the ball the other way, bunt, and steal like they used to, but is that a productive way to play in today’s climate? Is it as simple to drop a sacrifice bunt against the average fastball today as it was in the past? Science says it isn’t. The average fastball in 2021 has creeped a shade over 93 miles an hour. Just ten years ago, the average heater was barely scratching 91.
Those who have played baseball know that’s a major jump in velocity, forcing hitters to make adjustments and boxing them into a corner: hit homers or sink.
JD Martinez— Ahead of the Curve (@aotc_podcast) April 24, 2021
“Staying On Swing Plane.” pic.twitter.com/fVuUVGT2tA
Martinez was asked about his tenure in Houston and how he propelled himself into a “slugger.”
“I’m not a slugger,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a slugger, I consider myself a hitter that can drive the ball. I think a lot of guys have that same identity here. You know a lot of guys believe in that. We don’t have any guys who are up their swinging for the fences. I think that’s a tough way to produce runs on a consistent basis. You’re pretty much defending on long balls. To me, I’m a firm believer in it. I think you’ve got to be a hitter before you’re a slugger.”
A little counter-productive to his argument, right?
So he says he doesn’t believe in slugging before you can master the craft of “hitting.” I would say most reading this article can buy that statement. It’s frustrating to watch a bunch of 6-foot-four meatheads swinging for the fences and striking out every other at bat. It’s also ineffective, which Martinez acknowledges.
But maybe MLB players are, in fact, swinging for the fences because it’s too hard to string hits together against the increase in velocity, or “stuff”, as Martinez calls it? Velocity obviously means the pitch gets to the catcher’s glove faster, and more importantly, forces the hitter to make a decision sooner.
The old adage of three tenths of a second to make a decision is dwindling every year as velocity rises, which really makes Driveline hitting so unique. Did their program insist on crafting “sluggers” before hitters because they disagreed with Martinez’s theories on hitting, or are they simply countering power pitching?
I believe the three-time All-Star means to say that it’s more difficult to master hitting than it is to master slugging. And it is. How many Tony Gwynn and Pete Rose-type guys do you see around the league today? They don’t grow on trees because you can’t teach that, and now their technique is nearly non-existent in today’s baseball.
Here’s what baseball is doing to fix this problem:
Major League Baseball is testing new rules, like moving the mound back in the Atlantic League, to see how they affect the game. It’s possible that they force pitchers to rely on location rather than “stuff,” which, in theory, helps hitters ditch the home run approach.
And while I agree that Martinez may focus on mastering “hitting,” it’s hard to believe his entire roster is doing the same. Teams like the New York Yankees walk up to the plate and swing like they’re trying to bust a piñata, so it’s likely they’re thinking about the long ball.
With this oppo taco, JD Martinez is now tied for first in Home Runs with 7 🔥 🔥🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/eRkzgW3sYN— Elite Media Group (@TheEliteMedia_) April 24, 2021
We’ll see how baseball changes over the years, but for now, it’s on a collision course with disaster and desperately needs tinkering.