Healthy V-Mart vexed by 'toughest year of my career'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Victor Martinez wanted to get the first question off the table immediately.

“Yes, I am healthy,” he said. “I have never put an excuse when I’m not hitting. Yes. I am healthy.”

Martinez, a career .300 hitter from both sides of plate, is in the midst of the worst statistical season of his career. His .243 average, .300 on-base percentage and .671 OPS would be career lows. 

He has a career-low .216 average with runners in scoring position and since the All-Star break is hitting .199 with a .568 OPS.

“This is definitely the toughest year of my career,” he said. 

He had surgery on his left meniscus in early February and though he started the season on time, he was clearly struggling to hit from the left-side of the plate. He wound up spending a month on the disabled list. 

The knee hasn’t bothered in recent weeks, but his bat has never fully come around.

“I’ve been struggling pretty much the whole year,” he said. “But, if you’ve been watching the games, I’ve been hitting the ball pretty good, just…”

Just, so many times his hard-hit balls have landed in fielders’ gloves. His batting average on balls in play is .251, which is an indicator that he’s hit in some bad luck.  

“That’s something I can’t control,” he said. “After you hit it, you can’t control what’s going to happen. What can you do? You hit a ball 400-and-something feet and it’s an out. It’s not even a hit. It’s pretty frustrating.

“I mean, you know how tough it is to square up a ball. If I get out and I got jammed, I don’t care. The guy jammed me, he got me out. But when you square a ball up, you want results.”

Martinez chuckled over the hit he got against the Rangers on Sunday.

“I got a hit the other day when the ball hit the grass and bounced over the second baseman’s head,” he said. “I was like, ‘Finally, thank God.’ You go around to every hitter and they will tell you the same thing. When you square the ball, you want results.

“People say, ‘Good swing, good swing.’ Nah. I want results. Everybody wants results.”

What a difference a year makes. Martinez is coming off a career season in 2014 when he hit 32 homers, had a .974 OPS and was rewarded with a four-year, $68 million contract.

“Last year, it seemed like everything I hit was falling in,” he said. “Everything I hit in the air was leaving the park. This year, it’s completely different. But what can you do? Keep working and control what I can control. Just go out there and be a tough out.”

During this five-game losing streak, he’s gone 2-for-17 and 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday that the coaching staff had discussed moving Martinez down in the order.

But, that’s not going to happen — at least not yet.

“It was discussed,” Ausmus said. “We’re not currently discussing it.”

Martinez said he was going to keep doing what he’s always done — whether he’s in a slump or not.

“Once that at-bat is over, it’s over,” he said. “I can’t get it back. That’s why I always try to be a tough out. I keep trying and I keep trying. I’m going to keep doing that through my whole career.”

Victor Martinez grounds out with two men on base to end the eighth inning in Tuesday's 8-7 loss to the Angels.