Pundits have predicted David Ortiz's demise for years now, yet the 35-year-old Red Sox slugger is enjoying a vintage Big Papi season in 2011. After tallying two more hits in Boston's 14-5 drubbing of the San Diego Padres last night, Ortiz is batting .323/.402/.604.
Ortiz has turned the clock back by hitting for mammoth power while also paring his strikeout rate dramatically. He has punched out in just 11.1 percent of his plate appearances this season, compared to 23.9 percent in 2010. The biggest reason that Ortiz has cut his K rate by more than half is that he's connecting on -- and crushing -- fastballs.
Take a look at Ortiz's contact rate against fastballs in 2010 and 2011:
Ortiz's contact rate on fastballs in 2010
Ortiz's contact rate on fastballs in 2011
He's making more contact across the board, but the biggest change is that he's connecting far more often on fastballs located in the upper third of the strike zone. Overall, Ortiz has missed 10.9 percent of the fastballs that he has swung at. Last year, Ortiz missed fastballs 22 percent of the time that he pulled the trigger.
Ortiz isn't just putting the bat on the ball against fastballs -- he's annihilating them. Ortiz's .817 slugging percentage versus fastballs dwarfs the .431 major league average for non-pitchers and trails only New York's Curtis Granderson among all MLB hitters. Ortiz slugged .608 against fastballs in 2010.
David Ortiz may be in his mid-thirties, but he's far from finished. His monstrous year at the plate has pushed the Red Sox to the top of the American League East standings and positions him for a handsome payday in free agency this winter.