Friday, October 31, 2014

Victor Martinez had a great season (especially for an old guy)

Victor Martinez was one of my favorite Cleveland Indians, both because of his fantastic play for the team and his tremendous presence in the clubhouse. I understood why he was traded away, but it was a drag seeing him play for Boston. Seeing him move on to Detroit wasn't any better, but I can't bring myself to root against him, even as it pains me to watch him routinely destroy the Tribe. (His 1.024 OPS against the Indians is easily his best versus any AL team.) Victor missed all of 2012 after having knee surgery, then posted his worst numbers in years in 2013. He turned 35 last offseason, and it made sense to think he'd entered the final stages of his time as a productive player. Instead though, Martinez had the best season of his career.

Martinez batted .335/.409/.565, with a wRC+ of 166, which put him only 1 point behind Mike Trout for the American League lead. Martinez's .409 on-base percentage did lead the league, and it makes him one of a very select few to lead the league in OBP at the age of 35 or older:

  • Victor Martinez (AL, 2014): Age 35
  • Chipper Jones (NL, 2008): Age 36
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2004): Age 39 
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2003): Age 38
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2002): Age 37
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2001): Age 36
  • Edgar Martinez (AL, 1999): Age 36
  • Edgar Martinez (AL, 1998):  Age 35
  • Pete Rose (NL, 1979): Age 38
  • Willie Mays (NL, 1971): Age 40
  • Ted Williams (AL, 1958): Age 39
  • Stan Musial (NL, 1957): Age 36
  • Ted Williams (AL, 1957): Age 38
  • Ted Williams (AL, 1956): Age 37
  • Ted Williams (AL, 1954): Age 35
  • Bob Johnson (AL, 1944): Age 38
  • Luke Appling (AL, 1943): Age 36
  • Babe Ruth (AL, 1932): Age 37
  • Rogers Hornsby (NL, 1931): Age 35
  • Babe Ruth (AL, 1931): Age 36
  • Babe Ruth (AL, 1930): Age 35
  • Tris Speaker (AL, 1925): Age 37
  • Gavvy Cravath (NL, 1916): Age 35
  • Miller Huggins (NL, 1913): Age 35
  • Honus Wagner (NL, 1909): Age 35
  • Cap Anson (NL, 1888): Age 38
  • Cap Anson (NL, 1888):  Age 36

It's an incredibly impressive list. A total of 17 players, for a total of 27 seasons. A majority of those seasons came from guys considered by many to be among the dozen or so best hitters ever, and until this season, of the guys who've done it since World War II, Pete Rose was probably the worst hitter!

In addition to his fantastic on-base percentage, Martinez also established a new career high with 32 home runs. His previous best was 25, all the way back in 2007. Martinez is only the 45th player in MLB history to hit 32+ home runs at the age of 35 or older. Of the previous 44, every single one of them had a previous career best in home runs of something higher than Martinez's 25.

The combination of his league best OBP and his career best power allowed Martinez to also lead the American League in OPS, at .974. That makes him part of an even more select group of players, those who've led the league in OPS at the age of 35 or older:

  • Victor Martinez (AL, 2014): Age 35
  • Chipper Jones (NL, 2007): Age 35
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2004): Age 39
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2003): Age 38
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2002): Age 37
  • Barry Bonds (NL, 2001): Age 36
  • Mike Schmidt (NL, 1986): Age 36
  • Hank Aaron (NL, 1971): Age 37
  • Ted Williams (AL, 1958): Age 39
  • Stan Musial (NL, 1957): Age 36
  • Ted Williams (AL, 1957): Age 38
  • Ted Williams (AL, 1954): Age 35
  • Bob Johnson (AL, 1944): Age 38
  • Rogers Hornsby (NL, 1931): Age 35
  • Babe Ruth (AL, 1931): Age 36
  • Babe Ruth (AL, 1930): Age 35
  • Cy Williams (NL, 1926): Age 38
  • Ty Cobb (AL, 1925): Age 38
  • Honus Wagner (NL, 1911): Age 37
  • Honus Wagner (NL, 1909): Age 35
  • Cap Anson (NL, 1888): Age 36
Martinez becomes only the 14th player to lead his league in OPS at such an age. In the American League, the only other guys to do it are Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Bob Johnson. Johnson had the advantage of a league depleted of many of its younger stars (including Williams) by World War II. The other trio consists of the three greatest hitters in American League history. That's Victor Martinez's company now, as he turned in one of the greatest seasons ever by a player his age.

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