In 641 regular season plate appearances, Victor Martinez struck out only 47 times, an amazingly low K percentage of 6.6%. So far in the ALDS, the Orioles have induced some free swinging from Martinez, and despite him hitting a two-run home run in the first game of ALDS, he has K'ed three times in eight plate appearances, which is highly unusual. In 2013, VMart had a combined 44 postseason plate appearances, and only struck out three times.
Here has been the Baltimore pitch sequencing in getting Martinez to K:
Scenario: Fourth inning v Chris Tillman; none on, one out
Result: Tillman started Martinez off with a 93 MPH cutter for a called strike, and then threw him a nasty 78 MPH knuckle curve for a called strike two. He then threw two fastballs, one of which was out of the zone and taken for a ball, and the second of which Martinez swung through, for his first strikeout of the series.
Scenario: Sixth inning v Andrew Miller; Miguel Cabrera on first, no outs
Result: In Martinez's worst at bat of the series, Miller made short work of him by striking him out on three straight pitches. He started VMart off with an 83 MPH slider for a called first strike. He then threw a 94 MPH four-seamer for a called strike two, and came back with an 84 MPH slider in the dirt which VMart swung over to end the at bat.
Scenario: Fourth inning v Kevin Gausman; no on, two outs
Result: Gausman started VMart with three straight splitters in the 87-88 MPH range. He then threw a fastball, taken for a ball — 3-1 count. Gausman then threw Martinez two high-velocity fastballs, and even though the first was fouled off, Martinez ultimately was KO'ed on a 98 MPH fastball. Inning over.
Each of the three Oriole pitchers took on Martinez in a different way, but each of the at-bats described above ended in a strikeout. There's no prescribed formula for striking out Victor Martinez, but perhaps this is not the Tigers' year. The Detroit bullpen seems to be affirming the idea of an early Tigers exit regardless of VMart's whiffs.
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Steven Martano is a contributing writer a Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.