The Victor Martinez injury created a significant void in the Tigers lineup from the designated hitter position. The team started out using a collection of players to fill the void before eventually plugging Delmon Young into the spot full-time after his run-in with New York City police. Overall, the team’s designated hitters combined to post an overall line of .257/.291/.395 and an OPS of .687. Also, the number five hitter in the Tigers’ lineup combined for the second worst OPS in all of baseball and just a .252 average. For a position created solely to provide better offense, DH in 2012 fell far short for the club.
Deeper Dive: V-Mart's Recovery
All reports on the recovery of Martinez are positive at this point. He has already begun a base running program and has been taking swings for a few months now. It remains to be seen just how productive he can be in 2013 given that he is entering his age 34 season and missed all of last year.
In an effort to find some sort of comparison to the degree of Martinez’s injury and age, we can look at how Chipper Jones recovered from an ACL tear in 2010. Chipper tore his ACL in August of 2010, his age 38 season. He rebounded the next season and actually posted a higher AVG, SLG and OPS. Also, Chipper had to recover enough to play third base while Martinez will solely be a designated hitter. The Tigers will look for from Martinez is his ability to provide protection from the number five spot in the lineup. He should be able to do so as over the last three seasons he is fourth in baseball with a .341 batting average with RISP.
One big thing that is consistent over his career is that he has always maintained a low strikeout rate and his injury should have no effect on his ability to continue that trend.
Barring any setbacks in spring training, Martinez is on track to be the designated hitter on Opening Day. The organization has already come out and said that his catching days are over, so the wear and tear on his knees from squatting behind the plate will not come into play anymore. How his knee holds up remains to be seen but veteran baseball players that stay in shape have a good track record of recovery.
If everything goes as planned Martinez will be the team’s designated hitter through 2014, the end of his contract. After then it remains to be seen what the team does at the position considering the strong likelihood that Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder may end up there full-time at some point during their contracts.