How the incredible seasons of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez stack up against other Red Sox greats

Both players are having MVP-type campaigns, but how do they compare to other standouts in the last 50 years?

Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are piecing together two of the best seasons out of any Red Sox players in the last 50 years.
Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are piecing together two of the best seasons out of any Red Sox players in the last 50 years. –Elise Amendola / AP Photo

While the Red Sox have relied on the depth of their lineup all season, it’s no secret that Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have been the catalysts along the way.

Both players are putting up MVP-type numbers during the team’s stellar season. Betts (.344, 25 home runs, 56 RBIs) is leading the Majors in hitting, while Martinez (.326, 32, 89) is first in home runs and RBIs, as of Sunday morning.

The duo has helped the Red Sox to the best record in baseball thus far and has chipped in several timely hits along the way. Anyone can see that they’re having special seasons, but just how dynamic have they been?

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Here’s a look back at the best individual seasons in Red Sox history over the last 50 years, with a breakdown of how Betts and Martinez stack up.

The competition

1968 – Carl Yastrzemski – .301, 23 HR, 74 RBIs

1969 – Rico Petrocelli – .297, 40 HR, 97 RBIs

1970 – Carl Yastrzemski – .329, 40 HR, 102 RBIs

This is without question one of the best seasons in Red Sox history. Yastrzemski hit for power and average and finished with an OPS of 1.044. He also played in 161 games, stole 23 bases, and stuck out just 66 times.

1971 – Reggie Smith – .283, 30, 96

1972* – Carlton Fisk – .293, 22, 61

1973 – Reggie Smith – .303, 21, 69

1974 – Carl Yastrzemski – .301, 15, 79

1975 – Fred Lynn – .331, 21, 105

1976 – Fred Lynn – .314, 10, 65

1977 – Carlton Fisk – .315, 26, 102

1978 – Jim Rice – .315, 46, 139

A 25-year-old Rice turned in one of his best seasons, leading the team in nearly every statistical category. He racked up 406 total bases and finished with 15 triples.

1979 – Fred Lynn – .333, 39, 122 and Jim Rice – .325, 39, 130

Lynn was in his prime and absolutely smoking the ball. Fun fact: He finished second on the team in batting average that year, as Bob Watson hit .337 in 84 games. Watson didn’t have a 1.059 OPS or .637 slugging percentage, though.

Rice’s numbers were remarkably similar, and he finished with over 200 hits. He also had more runs, triples, and stolen bases than Lynn did.

1980 – Jim Rice – .294, 24, 86

1981* – Dwight Evans – .296, 22, 71

1982 – Jim Rice – .309, 24, 97

1983 – Jim Rice – .305, 39, 126

1984 – Dwight Evans – .295, 32, 104

1985* – Wade Boggs – .368, 8, 78

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1986 – Wade Boggs – .357, 8, 71

1987 – Wade Boggs – .363, 24, 89 and Dwight Evans – .305, 34, 123

Boggs was a hitting machine in the late-80s, and his all-around game reached a new level this year. After hitting for a similar average each of the past two seasons, his power numbers skyrocketed in 1987.

He racked up 200 hits, earned an on-base percentage of .461, and smoked 40 doubles in the process.

1988 – Mike Greenwell – .325, 22, 119

1989 – Mike Greenwell – .308, 14, 95

1990 – Ellis Burks – .296, 21, 89

1991 – Wade Boggs – .332, 8, 51

1992 – Tom Brunansky – .266, 15, 74

1993 – Mo Vaughn – .297, 29, 101

1994* – Mo Vaughn – .310, 26, 82

1995* – Mo Vaughn – .300, 39, 126

1996 – Mo Vaughn – .326, 44, 143

Vaughn turned in several strong years in a row, and this was arguably the best one. His on-base percentage (.420), hits total (207), and OPS (1.003) stood out, and he also scored 118 runs.

1997 – Mo Vaughn – .315, 35, 96

1998 – Mo Vaughn – .337, 40, 115

1999 – Nomar Garciaparra – .357, 27, 104

2000 – Nomar Garciaparra – .372, 21, 96

1999 and 2000 were both absurdly productive years for Garciaparra, as he blossomed into one of the league’s most multi-dimensional players. Both seasons deserve consideration, but the .372 average in 2000 is hard to ignore.

2001 – Manny Ramirez – .306, 41, 125

2002 – Manny Ramirez – .349, 33, 107

Ramirez could rake, and this year was one of his best ever. Though he and Betts appear to be different players on the surface, their numbers are surprisingly similar in these particular years.

In addition to average, home runs, and RBIs, Ramirez also had a similar slugging percentage (.647) to Betts’s current mark (.659). Their OPS was nearly the same (1.097 for Ramirez and 1.087 for Betts), as of Sunday morning. Though it might not necessarily be one’s first thought, this season is a great jumping off point for Betts’s historical significance.

2003 – Manny Ramirez – .325, 37, 104

2004 – Manny Ramirez – .308, 43, 130 and David Ortiz – .301, 41, 139

2005 –David Ortiz – .300, 47, 148 and Manny Ramirez – .292, 45, 144

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Ortiz and Ramirez wreaked havoc as a two-man wrecking crew in the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and Ortiz’s numbers were especially impressive during the latter. Belting 47 homers along with 148 RBIs is impressive as is, but doing it while also hitting .300 is almost unheard of.

Martinez’s season could end up looking very similar, if he keeps his power numbers up and continues to drive in runs consistently.

2006 – Manny Ramirez – .321, 45, 102 and David Ortiz – .287, 54, 137

2007 – David Ortiz – .332, 35, 117

2008 – Dustin Pedroia – .326, 17, 83 and Kevin Youkilis – .312, 29, 115

Pedroia earned MVP honors after compiling one of the most efficient seasons in club history. He racked up 726 plate appearances, 118 runs, 213 hits, 54 doubles, and 20 stolen bases, guiding the club to a 95-win season.

2009 – Jason Bay – .267, 36, 119 and Kevin Youkilis – .305, 27, 94

2010 – Adrian Beltre – .321, 28, 102

2011 – Adrian Gonzalez – .338, 27, 117 and Jacoby Ellsbury – .321, 32, 105

People forget just how dominant Gonzalez was in 2011. His stint with the Red Sox didn’t last long, but he was marvelous in his first year with the club. Gonzalez led the league with 213 hits, and he also racked up 45 doubles while scoring 108 runs.

2012 – David Ortiz – .318, 23, 60

2013 – David Ortiz – .309, 30, 103

2014 – David Ortiz – .263, 35, 104

2015 – David Ortiz – .273, 37, 108

2016 –David Ortiz – .315, 38, 127

2017 – Mookie Betts – .264, 24, 102

*Shortened seasons (fewer than 162 games)

*Stats according to baseball-reference.com

How they compare

Yastrzemski’s season in 1970, Lynn and Rice’s campaigns in 1979, Boggs’s torrid stretch in 1987, and Ortiz’s dominant slate in 2005 stand out as some of the best over the last 50 years.

There’s a lot of season left, but if Betts is able to reach the 38 home runs he’s on pace for, while also keeping his average above .340, he’d be the only player on this list to do so. His RBI numbers aren’t quite as high as some of the other players here, partially because he bats in the leadoff spot, but his OPS and the team’s success shouldn’t be taken for granted. He’s also not played in 20 games, which makes his 25 homers more significant.

If Martinez is able to finish around .326, with 48 home runs, and 135 RBIs – which he’s on pace to do – he’d be the only player on this list with such numbers. He’s crushing the ball with gusto, while also getting on base at an extremely high rate, and his seasons are similar to Jim Rice’s campaign in 1978 and Mo Vaughn’s in 1996.

Time will tell how both players finish the year, but they’ve certainly been dominant to this point.

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