Does J.D. Martinez Improve Boston’s World Series Odds?
Jake Roth – USA Today Sports
The J.D. Martinez sweepstakes finally came to an end, as the Boston Red Sox inked the right-handed slugger to a five-year deal Monday afternoon.
With Yu Darvish signing with the Cubs, Eric Hosmer signing with the Padres, and Martinez signing with the Sox, the MLB free agent market is on a roll. About time!
According to ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, the deal has an opt-out clause after just two years. Reports also state that the total deal is for $110 million, but is front-loaded with $50 million split over the first two years and $60 million over the final three.
After a season in which he mashed 45 dongs in just 119 games, Martinez was considered the prime bat of the offseason. With Boston’s offense taking a hit after David Ortiz’s retirement, adding some power was clearly a top priority. After the Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton to their already potent offense, Boston had fallen behind in the AL East in the eyes of most folks, including oddsmakers.
So…how does he help Boston’s chances in the eyes of the aforementioned oddsmakers?
One book moved Boston’s World Series odds from +1354 to +1000, representing about a 2.2% increase in implied probability to slightly over 9%.
The rival Yankees saw a slight odds drop from +566 to +595, while the Astros and Indians remained at +556 and +817, respectively.
Another book moved Boston from +1400 to +950. This 3.55% improvement in implied odds is more substantial, but no other contenders’ odds dropped.
They also improved Boston’s divisional odds from +175 to +165, but have not upped its win total of 91.5 (u-120.) Before the signing, there was some disagreement between Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus, two of the best baseball analytics sites, regarding 2018 projections for Boston and New York.
Fangraphs was expecting the Red Sox to win 92 games to the Yankees’ 90, whereas Baseball Prospectus had New York winning a whopping 97 compared to Boston’s 88. These numbers will likely be updated in the morning, but I do believe there is value on taking Boston “over” 91.5 wins.
All right, enough with that big-J journo stuff. Here’s how I feel as a Sox fan.
Earlier in the offseason, Martinez’s agent Scott Boras touted him as a man who just came off of a season in which he was on pace for 70 dingers. Though that may be statistically true, teams around the majors weren’t buying the sales pitch. Dave Dombrowski also wasn’t crumbling under the demands and offering crazy contracts, ultimately just upping his offer from $100 to $110 million to get the deal done.
I’m not expecting Martinez to challenge the single-season home run record anytime soon, but his presence in the lineup is greatly needed. The Red Sox did finish with 93 wins and a division title for the second straight season, but their offensive numbers resembled that of their sub-.500 teams of 2012, 2014, and 2015.
Even if Martinez hits only 30 home runs, pitchers will need to fear his name when looking at the lineup card. If he had not been signed, Boston would have needed to depend on huge seasons from youngsters like Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers while praying Hanley Ramirez returned to form in the final year of his contract.
It was also quite clear that Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts were not comfortable with the added pressure in last year’s Papi-less lineup, as both of their wOBAs, or weighted on-base averages to the layperson, dropped significantly from 2016 to 2017.
Not only does it take pressure off the hitters, but the pitchers as well. The 2017 pitching staff posted Boston’s lowest ERA since 1992 and had to eke out loads of late-inning wins to get to 93 victories.
With Boston’s offense very likely to improve on the 4.85 runs per game scored last season and pitching numbers probably due to regress a bit, we should expect another very close division race and anywhere from a high 80s to almost 100 win total.
Now, we just have wait to see if Chris Sale and David Price are both healthy come October and able to pick up some postseason wins…
Photo via Jake Roth – USA Today Sports