The Houston Astros lived by analytics under former general manager Jeff Luhnow, and in the case of J.D. Martinez, they died by them, too.
Appearing on a new podcast devoted to Houston's cheating scandal, Luhnow admitted that he cut Martinez in 2014 based on a lazily broad reading of age dynamics.
Speaking to Sports Illustrated reporter Ben Reiter on "The Edge: Houston Astros," Luhnow walked through the decision to cut Martinez, who had reached the majors just two years after being selected in the 20th round of the 2009 draft.
From 2011-13, Martinez had hit just .251 with 24 homers in 899 at-bats. He overhauled his swing the winter before the 2014 season, however, and arrived at spring training insistent that he was a new man. Luhnow knew that statistically, players who haven't made it by age 26 rarely make it at all, so he cut him.
Bad move. Martinez signed with the Tigers and returned almost immediately to Astros camp for a game against his former team, and he put on a show.
"That was the buzz around Astros camp -- J.D. Martinez just hit three home runs against his former teammates," Luhnow told Reiter, per WEEI's Rob Bradford. "Part of me said, 'Uh oh, what have I done.' The rest is history. He became one of the premier sluggers in the league for the past six, seven years."
Martinez went on to hit .315 with 23 homers in Detroit in 2014. A year later he put up .282-38-102 numbers en route to his first All-Star appearance, and he hasn't looked back. Since joining the Red Sox in 2018, he has made a pair of All-Star teams and finished as high as fourth in the MVP voting.
Though his 2020 ended up being a season to forget, it's fair to say he wasn't, in fact, washed up at age 26. He was just getting started.