Fangraphs recently had an awesome interview with Tigers outfielder JD Martinez:
“People talk to me and I tell them straight up. I don’t bullshit,” Martinez said. “In the cage, I talk about it all the time. I’m not trying to hit a fucking line drive or a freaking ground ball. I’m trying to hit the ball in the air. I feel like the ball in the air is my strength and has a chance to go anywhere in the park. So why am I trying to hit a ground ball? That’s what I believe in.”
Finally. We have a player willing to admit he wants to hit dingers and doubles. You can’t do that by hitting the ball on the ground or sometimes even on a line. You do that by hitting the ball in the air. Really hard, in the air. Martinez went on…
“You still talk to coaches ‘Oh, you want a line drive right up the middle. Right off the back of the [L-screen in batting practice].’ OK, well that’s a fucking single. To me, the numbers don’t lie. The balls in the air play more.”
Love it. Just because you’re hitting the ball squarely off the bat doesn’t mean that was the best possible outcome. Not to brag, but I would rarely hit the ball off the screen in high school and college. In fact, most of my BP was hit off the top of the cage followed swiftly by me declaring “that ball’s gone.”
With more players thinking like Martinez, I feel like that has to lead to bigger swings with a more uppercut tilt to them. Enough of these level swings that give you the best chance to make contact. If I wanted to see ground balls I’d hop over to the Little League game and watch drunk dads mercilessly scream at umpires who ring up their kids.
I want laser beams and dingers, and I want them all the time.