D-backs’ J.D. Martinez won’t win MVP, but he has a case
PHOENIX — Posed the question of whether slugger J.D. Martinez should be considered a viable MVP candidate Wednesday after his 16th home run of September tied the National League mark set in 1949 and sparked a ninth-inning rally, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo paused.
For one, he hadn’t thought about it.
And there are so many moving parts.
Martinez played only 59 games for Arizona after a midseason trade from the Detroit Tigers. He missed games with the D-backs upon taking a pitch to his hand in his first outing. With Detroit, a foot injury kept him out. If he plays the final three games of the year, he’ll only have appeared in 119 games of the 162-game season.
Then there’s the consideration of Martinez’s teammate, Paul Goldschmidt, who by Wins Above Replacement, defense and durability could make a case for winning the award that might end up going to Giancarlo Stanton of the non-contending Marlins.
So Lovullo, posed with all things things, talked it out.
“The whole body of work when you look at the numbers is impressive, and you talk about half of a season, that’s as good as a lot of full seasons, MVP-wise,” the manager said, then citing Kirk Gibson’s 1988 MVP season for the Dodgers. “I have my own opinion about MVPs, but he should deserve some consideration.”
Without much for competition in his MVP candidacy, Gibson hit 25 home runs on 157 hits, added 76 RBI and battled .290 in 150 games that year that season, though he did finish with a 6.5 WAR.
For the 59 games so far with the D-backs, Martinez has 29 homers, 65 RBI and is batting .306. For the season between his two teams, Martinez sits at 129 hits, 45 homers, 104 RBI and has a 4.1 WAR over a shortened year.
His WAR sits at 2.6 with Arizona alone, and if we’re to compare that to any one player, it was A’s reliever Dennis Eckersley in 1992 who won the MVP with a 2.8 WAR.
So does Martinez have a case?
Probably, though the wild uptick in home runs just in the past 365 days makes comparisons to past eras apples to oranges.
Between going up against an impressive candidate in Stanton, missing time due to injury and switching leagues — because of a lack of viable Cy Young candidates, Rick Sutcliffe won the 1984 honor after switching leagues — Martinez won’t be taking home an MVP trophy.
Plus, he’s playing with another MVP candidate and facing several other suitors, including Stanton, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon.
But it’s sure been a hell of a 59-game stretch.
ADVICE FROM A VET
Daniel Descalso quietly signed with Arizona in the offseason and, if the NL Wild Card standings hold, will end up facing the Colorado Rockies, the team he played for the last two years.
He has insight into the D-backs’ potential Wild Card opponent.
And he also played in 11 playoff series with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2011-14.
“A lot can happen in those situations. The game can speed up on you. One pitch, one play can be the difference in winning and losing and going on to the next round,” Descalso said Wednesday. “We just have to go and play our game. That’s going to be plenty. We don’t have to do anything more than than. We don’t have to do anything extra.”
Playing all over the infield, Descalso has become an integral part of a D-backs team of regulars facing their first postseason action.
As he did from the preseason opener, when a pinch-hit RBI tied the game to set up a walk-off win, Descalso gave Lovullo a reliable, experienced bench option who can play all over the infield and even the outfield.
“It’s not just right now,” Lovullo said. “I think there’s a strategy to having that type of player in our clubhouse because there’s a just a calming effect that when you look at them, they’ve walked the walk, and you know they’re just being themselves daily. When you’re grinding in August, when things aren’t going so great, it brings you to a level of, ‘OK, let’s just focus and do my job.'”
— Martinez on if he has surprised himself: “There’s like no right way to answer it. If I say, ‘yes,’ then it’s like I”m not supposed to, I don’t think I could do it. If I say, ‘no,’ then I’m arrogant, I’m cocky. I mean, I just feel like right now it’s just having success and doing what I want to do up there. I feel comfortable in the box and I’m getting results.”
— Descalso on Lovullo: “He’s not too high when things are going well and he doesn’t get too low and snap on us when things are going bad. It’s that even-keel, ride-the-wave so to speak, which you need in a long season. He’s been that way from the beginning. He’s demanded a lot of us, and not unreasonably.