I didn’t watch JD Martinez hit his third home run live last night, because I was foolish enough to think that a cable channel with a deal to show Astros games would actually show Astros games rather than “letting” me watch the game “for free” on a separate paid subscription service. But I did watch it in replay form, and there’s a certain element of Martinez’s thus far very effective home run swing: the end.
The beginning isn’t half bad, sure to say. Martinez holds his hands high over his head before the pitch, with his front leg extended towards the pitcher aggressively. As the pitch arrives, he shifts his leg over to a more reasonable spot, then draws his hands back as though he was loading up a slingshot. His hands take a direct course to the ball in the swing, and that is where the swing gets good.
Successful pro power hitters distinguish themselves in the moment when their bat meets the ball. The best out there–from Lance Berkman to Albert Pujols to Prince “oh my goodness” Fielder–seem to direct all of their weight, bat speed, and momentum into that single point where the bat touches the ball. One can almost feel the moment when the ball exchanges the kinetic energy provided by the pitcher for that of the hitter, as though the image freezes for a barely discernible instant. During this paycheck moment, the hitter’s bat seems to lose no speed as the ball springs towards the fence.
Early returns suggest to me that JD Martinez is capable of such moments. When he hit the ball last night, it sprang to the opposite field with special vigor, driven by Martinez’s powerful shoulders. He finished with a one-armed flourish, then flipped the bat back across his body. Let me repeat that, because it is the element that I take the most pleasure in: JD Martinez hit a home run, then flipped his bat.
JD Martinez flipped his bat because he is a power hitter. In the hands of a power hitter, the bat is an expressive object, an instrument of creation; a paintbrush, not an anchor.
Elsewhere, David Coleman at Crawfish Boxes mentioned the unexpectedness of Martinez’s power, casting some doubt over my untroubled conviction about his power swing: “Martinez, questioned about his power stroke every season he’s been in Houston’s system, was projected by ZiPS to hit just four home runs for the rest of this season. That’s over a projected 157 plate appearances. He’s got three in 34 plate appearances right now. Project that out over a whole season and he’s on pace to hit 52 home runs. There’s no way that happens, but it still flies in the face of everything we thought we knew about J.D. Martinez.”
Comments are closed.