Victor Martinez knows to keep his eye on the ball

Nearly a third of the way through the MLB season, the Venezuelan has struck out only 13 times in 172 at-bats and also has belted 12 home runs, writes Paul Oberjuerge.
Detroit Tigers' Victor Martinez strikes out swinging, which is a rarity for Martinez, against Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in Cleveland. The Indians defeated the Tigers 6-2. AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Detroit Tigers' Victor Martinez strikes out swinging, which is a rarity for Martinez, against Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in Cleveland. The Indians defeated the Tigers 6-2. AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Time was, ballplayers were embarrassed to strike out. Hitters were expected to put the ball in play, just in case it fell for a hit. For the past few decades, however, striking out has become accepted as the price big swingers pay to hit home runs.

In the history of the game, players have struck out at least 188 times in a season 19 times; all but one of those epic swing-and-miss years came since the dawn of the 21st century.

Which is what makes the accomplishments of the Detroit Tigers veteran Victor Martinez so impressive. Nearly a third of the way through the season, the Venezuelan has struck out only 13 times in 172 at-bats. More impressive still is that he is no pitty-pat hitter; he has 12 home runs.

Finishing a season with more homers than strikeouts is not unprecedented; Joe DiMaggio did it seven times. But in the modern age, accomplishing the feat would be astonishing. Not only is the shame of the strikeout gone (aside from declining to make eye contact with fans while walking back to the dugout). Swinging as hard as possible is expected.

The odds are against Martinez finishing with more homers than strikeouts. His batting eye may still be improving, at age 35, but power begins to wane at that age, and in his 13-year career, his strikeouts outnumber his homers by about 3.5 to one.

It would be nice, though, if he could finish with, say, 20 home runs and 19 strikeouts. Just to show the current generation it can be done.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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