For Royals fans, the focus of today’s game will be on whether Jakob Junis can continue his dominance over the Tigers. Plenty of attention will be paid to what the young members of the lineup can do against Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, too. But for Tigers fans and baseball fans around the country, the focus will be on Victor Martinez who announced earlier this week that tonight’s game would be his last in a major league uniform.
Victor started his career as an All-Star catcher in Cleveland but his best season came in 2014 for the Detroit Tigers. By then his over-worked. 35-year-old legs left him as a designated hitter only but he still slashed an amazing .335/.409/.565/.974 as helped drive his team to the post-season. He collected All-Star and Silver Slugger honors while leading the league in OBP, OPS, and intentional walks. He also finished second in MVP voting, that year.
That was, unfortunately, his last truly above-average season and he has declined steadily in the years since. He still played until he was 39 which is more than even some of the best players to take the field managed. Since he spent most of his career in the American League central he has long been a thorn in the Royals side. Entering today’s play he had slashed .290/.348/.430/.778 against them with 23 home runs in 229 games. For all Royals fans hate him he didn’t particularly love KC pitching. His tOPS+, a stat that measures offensive contributions in a split against the career, comes in at 91; that means he was actually worse than normal against Royals pitching.
The Tigers are pulling out all the stops to make V-Mart’s send-off a fun one. He will be batting cleanup one last time and he will take the field for the first time since 2016. He’ll be at first base, tonight. Hopefully, he will get lots of those Rex-hated hugs from Royals players as they reach base all night long.