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Entries in David Ortiz (25)

Tuesday
Jan142014

Big Papi Refuses to Get Old

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington recently said that "the door will be open" for the club to discuss a contract extension with David Ortiz, who will pull down $15 million next season during the last year of his current deal. For most 38-year-olds who don't contribute in the field and on the bases, the door would have slammed shut years ago. But Ortiz, fresh off a season in which he posted the best park-and-league-adjusted OPS (60 percent above average) among qualified hitters this side of Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Chris Davis, just won't get old. Forget slowing reflexes and declining bat speed -- Big Papi is too busy hoisting World Series trophies and sporting WWE championship belts.

In fact, Ortiz's lumber looks as quick as ever. He annihialated "hard" pitches -- fastballs, cutters and splitters -- in 2013, boasting the third-highest slugging percentage in this game against those high-speed offerings.

Baseball orthodoxy says that sluggers lose their quick-twitch fibers and prodigious power as they age. Not Ortiz, who is actually yanking more hard pitches to right field -- and launching them deeper -- as he creeps closer to forty. His pull percentage and average fly ball distance versus fastballs, cutters and splitters has increased three years running.

Ortiz's pull percentage and average fly ball distance vs. hard pitches, 2011-13

        

In addition to his World Series and pro wrestling gold, Ortiz can now claim his place as one of the all-time great batters among old dudes. Ortiz has the fourth-highest OPS+ ever for a hitter from age 35 onward (minimum 1,500 plate appearances). A chemically enhanced Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth are the only batters who mocked Father Time more effectively than Big Papi, though those guys continued raking into their forties.

(Source: Baseball-Reference.com)

Should the Sox pony up one last time for Ortiz? History hasn't been kind to similar sluggers. The list of DHs who have thrived from age 38 onward is an awfully short one: Just Edgar Martinez (132 OPS+), Brian Downing (130 OPS+) and Harold Baines (111 OPS+) managed to be at least 10 percent above average with the bat while logging 1,500+ plate appearances. And keep in mind, these are guys who only contribute offensively. Still, are you going to bet against Big Papi at this point? Eventually, he's going to slow down. But if there's one thing we've learned while perennially writing his baseball obituary, it's that Ortiz cares little for typical aging curves.

Friday
Nov012013

Big Papi's Nearly-Perfect World Series

Nobody can accuse David Ortiz of recklessly celebrating Boston's third World Series title in a decade. Big Papi shielded his dome and nearly broke Twitter by sporting a motorcycle helmet during the Red Sox' postgame bash. Ortiz isn't the one who needs protection, though -- that would be St. Louis' typically stellar pitching staff. Papi batted .688 and got on base at a .760 clip during the World Series, trailing only Billy Hatcher (1990) in both categories among hitters in a single Fall Classic. Combined with his heroics in 2004 and 2007, Ortiz now has the second-highest career OBP (.576) ever in the World Series among batters getting at least 25 plate appearances (Barry Bonds is first, at .700).

Here's more on how Ortiz tortured the Cardinals -- when they weren't giving him the Bonds treatment, that is.

  • Cardinals pitchers wanted nothing to do with Ortiz, throwing just 29.7 percent of their offerings over the plate against Boston's clean-up man. On a related note, he drew eight walks during the series, tying him with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and a few others for fifth-most all-time. No other hitter in the World Series came close to getting the Ortiz treatment. Carlos Beltran, himself a postseason demigod, saw the second-lowest rate of pitches in the strike zone (42 percent) during the Fall Classic.

Percentage of in-zone pitches seen during the 2013 World Series (minimum 20 PA)

  • When Ortiz did get something over the plate, he made it count. He went 8-for-10 with two homers versus in-zone pitches during the World Series. Big Papi crushed a middle-middle fastball from Kevin Siegrist in Game 1, and then went oppo on a Michael Wacha changeup in Game 2.
  • Ortiz took 38 total swings during the series, and he came up empty a mere four times. His 10.5 percent miss rate was lowest among all Sox and Cardinals hitters logging 20-plus plate appearances, just beating out Matt Carpenter (10.6 percent) and Beltran (10.7 percent).
Saturday
Oct262013

Joe Kelly Should Bring the Heat vs. Big Papi

Michael Wacha's game plan against David Ortiz in Game 2 of the World Series was simple: The St. Louis rookie wasn't going to let Boston's clean-up man beat him on a fastball. That makes sense, considering Ortiz boasts the fifth-highest slugging percentage (.633) in the majors versus heaters and Wacha possesses a deadly changeup. Wacha threw his change nine times out of 16 total pitches (60 percent) versus Ortiz, but Big Papi roped one of those off-speed pitches into the first row of the Green Monster seats. Throw him a fastball? You lose. Throw him a changeup? You still lose.

All of this might make Joe Kelly, the Cardinals' Game 3 starter, sweat. Kelly throws his fastball about two-thirds of the time, and he hasn't yet developed a knockout secondary pitch akin to Wacha's changeup. But he shouldn't necessarily despair. Crazy as it sounds, challenging Big Papi with fastballs might actually be a good strategy for Kelly.

Ortiz does have the best overall slugging percentage against heaters this side of Miguel Cabrera (.682), Paul Goldschmidt (.650), Jayson Werth (.646) and Edwin Encarnacion (.637). However, he does most of that damage against lower-velocity fastballs. Papi is Babe Ruth incarnate versus gas thrown at or below 93 MPH, but he's merely good when pitchers crank it up to 94 MPH or higher. Ortiz also expands his strike zone against fastballs with extra zip:

Ortiz vs. fastballs in 2013, by pitch velocity

Kelly's fastball has the extra zip that typically tames Ortiz's bat, with an average velocity (94.8 MPH) topped only by Nathan Eovaldi (96.1 MPH), Danny Salazar (95.9 MPH), Gerrit Cole (95.6 MPH), Matt Harvey (95.4 MPH), Stephen Strasburg (95.3 MPH) and Chris Archer (94.9 MPH) among starters. And as a starter, Kelly's fastball has been plenty effective: he's limiting batters to a .317 slugging percentage when navigating lineups multiple times. Ortiz, who's already gone deep five times this postseason, can spoil the best of pitches. But Kelly's best bet might be to try and blow Big Papi away.