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« HR Derby Tidbits: AL Edition | Main | Gaby Sanchez on the Outside »

David Ortiz Forever Young against Fastballs

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has been left for dead many times during his 16 years in the majors.  The Minnesota Twins released him back in 2002, tired of dealing with his wrist and knee ailments. Papi perenially looked cooked in April over the past several years, seemingly unable to catch up to quality fastballs as he reached his mid-30s.

Yet here he still is, slugging his 400th career homer yesterday by ripping an A.J. Griffin down the right field line in Oakland. The shot moved him past Andres Galarraga and into sole possession of 49th on the all-time list. Duke Snider (407) is next.  

That last epitaph written for Ortiz -- "Here lies Big Papi, he couldn't hit the fastball anymore" -- looks laughable these days. His fastball slugging has gotten finer with age:

YearMiss RateSlugging Pct.
2010 22 .610
2011 14.4 .696
2012 13.9 .760
2010-12 Avg. 15.6 .437


Ortiz trails only Andrew McCutchen and Alfonso Soriano in fastball slugging percentage this season, and his 17 homers against the heat tie him with Adam Dunn for tops in the game. Papi absolutely kills slower fastballs, but he has no trouble turning on Verlander-level gas either. Check out his fastball slugging percentage by velocity:

VelocitySlugging Pct.MLB Avg.
Under 90 MPH 1.156 .503
90-94 MPH .619 .449
95+ .735 .363


Still possessing that kid of bat speed has allowed Ortiz to turn in one of the best years ever among older sluggers. His 162 OPS+ ranks in the top 30 all-time among batters age 36 or older getting 300+ plate appearances in a season, according to Baseball-Reference. Slug on, Papi. We'll probably write your epitaph again soon. And we'll probably be wrong.

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