Here’s how the Red Sox debuts of J.D. Martinez and Manny Ramirez compare

Through 86 games, Martinez has mirrored Ramirez's production.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez in 2001.
Manny Ramirez in May 2001. –AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid

When the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez in February, pitchers and catchers had already reported to spring training. The delayed free agent signing came as a result of a slow market.

The same was not true during the winter of 2000-2001. In a frenzy of free agent bidding, record contracts flowed flippantly. Included in the bevy of high-profile signings was Manny Ramirez with the Red Sox.

It was a major part of a historic MLB offseason prominently showcased in an ESPN “Outside the Lines” piece that went “Inside the Manny Ramirez Deal.”

Comparing the two sluggers purely on the manner of their respective arrivals reveals profound differences, yet looking at the first half of their debut seasons in Boston presents striking similarities.

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With more than half of the 2018 season officially in the books, we can compare Martinez and Ramirez. Here’s what the numbers say about both sluggers through their first 86 games with the Red Sox:

J.D. Martinez:

  • .331 average
  • 28 home runs
  • 217 total bases
  • .394 on-base percentage
  • .654 slugging percentage
  • 1.047 OPS

Manny Ramirez:

  • .331 average
  • 26 home runs
  • 213 total bases
  • .428 on-base percentage
  • .642 slugging percentage
  • 1.069 OPS

In most categories, the two hitters are extremely close or — in the case of batting average — identical. One key difference is in their on-base percentages, with Ramirez’s .428 topping Martinez’s respectable .394.

This, however, is partly explained by a single indicator that sheds light on the very different circumstances that surrounded the two players.

Through 86 games in 2001, Ramirez was intentionally walked 20 times. That’s even more remarkable considering he only received five more during the rest of the season, yet still led the American League with 25.

Martinez, by contrast, has only been handed two intentional walks so far. Even accounting for the general decline in intentional walks in baseball since 2001, it’s a disparity that shows a more balanced Red Sox lineup in 2018 than existed during Ramirez’s debut season.

Beyond Martinez and Ramirez, comparing the 2001 vs. 2018 versions of the Red Sox reveals few similarities. The 2018 incarnation has so far been superior to its 2001 predecessor, given that the ’01 Sox didn’t reach 63 wins until August 5.

Still, putting the two sluggers side-by-side remains interesting. Red Sox fans will probably dread to hear that Ramirez went on to hit only .259 in the second half of the season (with a 107-point decline in slugging percentage), but he was largely trending downward after batting a whopping .409 in March and April.

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Martinez, on the other hand, has achieved more balance. His .337 March/April average was topped in June by a .347 clip. Terrifying as it might sound for rival American League pitchers, his best may be yet to come.