CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: PE... (10/11)
<< Previous Column
The BP Wayback Machine... (03/28)
Next Column >>
The BP Wayback Machine... (10/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: A... (10/12)

October 12, 2016

The BP Wayback Machine

Fare Thee Well, Papi

by Baseball Prospectus


Some players feel like they should be around forever, but a small subset of those players truly engineer that fate. In honor of his retirement, and to look back at his long and editorialized career, let's review 19 years of BP Annual comments about him, as he grew from a midwestern cast-off to playoff hero of a generation.

Year Comment
2016 Throw out anything you think you know about aging curves or the rules of baseball in general; they don't apply to Ortiz. Since the last Annual publication, Ortiz added another 37 homers to his total, joined the 500 home run club, logged his most innings in the field since 2006 (still just 60, but hey) and turned 40 years old. Just about everything that could've gone right for Ortiz in 2015 did. He stayed on the field, continued to post an absurdly good K/BB% for a power hitter, recorded his most plate appearances since 2009 and padded what should be a Hall of Fame resume. If you want to nitpick, Ortiz's stats against southpaws took a turn for the worse, but his 1.008 OPS against right-handers is enough to justify his role and salary. Big Papi chose to hang up the cleats after 2016, but it looks as though we'll be spared a Jeterian limp to the finish line. Enjoy this ride while it lasts, because there's never going to be anyone quite like Ortiz ever again.
2015 window._ttf = window._ttf || []; _ttf.push({ pid : 53804 ,lang : "en" ,slot : '.contentPad .article > p' ,format : "inread" ,minSlot : 5 ,components : { skip: {delay : 0}} ,css : "margin: 0px auto 20px; max-width: 600px!important;" }); (function (d) { var js, s = d.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; js = d.createElement('script'); js.async = true; js.src = '//cdn.teads.tv/media/format.js'; s.parentNode.insertBefore(js, s); })(window.document); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">Throw out anything you think you know about aging curves or the rules of baseball in general; they don't apply to Ortiz. Since the last Annual publication, Ortiz added another 35 homers to his total, surpassed the 1,500 RBI mark, signed a new contract and finished third in the city of Boston in a Mayoral race in which he did not run. Some BABIP fluctuation led to a lower average, but Ortiz posted identical ISO marks in 2013 and 2014, and markedly similar walk and strikeout rates, too. Ortiz will be 39 for the entirety of the 2015 season, but there's no reason to expect anything but more of the same out of him. There's going to be a statue outside Fenway with his likeness some day, and a plaque in Cooperstown with his face on it, too. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, because there's never going to be anyone quite like Ortiz ever again.
2014 What is there to say about David Ortiz at this point? Big Papi is an icon in the baseball world, and inexplicably still one of the great hitters in the game, despite looking like he was winding down four or five years ago. He came back from an Achilles injury to post one of the greatest offensive seasons for a 37-year-old in history, and that was before he hit .688/.760/1.188 in the World Series. He called his two-homer game against David Price in the ALDS, and even wore an incredible, stylish suit to the clubhouse, stating he knew he needed it for the post-game interview that would follow his achievement. The man wears a quarter-million dollar necklace during games, and chugged a rare, $100,000 bottle of champagne after winning the World Series and MVP honors. Ortiz is more than a baseball player: He's a genuine character, an individual, and a presence in a game that too frequently tries to hide those attributes. No one knows when this ride is going to end, but the where should be in upstate New York.
2013 Whether due to a newfound commitment to fitness, new hitting mechanics, or full recovery from a tendon-sheath injury to his left wrist sustained way back in 2008, Ortiz arrested his moribund Aprils of the last few seasons by, as Ben Lindbergh put it on the website, “making much more contact, and […] hitting it harder.” The only number going the wrong way for Ortiz is his age, as he walked more (on average), hit for more power, and even went the other way with more frequency, taking advantage of the exaggerated shifts thrown at him by opposing managers. Had he finished with enough plate appearances to qualify, Ortiz would have had the highest slugging percentage and second highest on-base percentage in baseball. Signed to a two-year deal, he’ll have at least that to work on his Hall of Fame case.
2012 Ortiz once again saw his performance dip in April, but this time around, he wasn't an easy out at the plate. He hit .267/.373/.395 with strikeouts in under 11 percent of his plate appearances, a massive shift from April 2010, when he whiffed nearly 40 percent of the time. That low punchout trend continued throughout the year, and Ortiz finished with his most productive season since 2007. While his power was still heavily pull-oriented, Ortiz went the other way more often, borrowing a modified version of the approach used by new teammate Adrian Gonzalez. This shift means Ortiz is more likely to continue producing for the next few years, whereas prior to 2011, no one would have been shocked if the purpose of this comment was to eulogize his career. Except for David Ortiz, of course.
2011 Ortiz's 2010 began much like his 2009—with a worrisome slump. Unlike the year prior, Ortiz stopped chasing pitches out of the strike zone as often in May, and pitchers who dared throw him something hittable paid for it to the tune of a .286/.385/.558 line from that point forward. Boston has faith in Ortiz replicating that production, as they picked up his $12.5 million, above-market rate-option for 2011. The fact that the Sox didn't sign Ortiz to the multi-year extension he sought reveals their commitment to limiting their exposure to risk—i.e. Ortiz's mid-30s decline—even at the expense of appeasing the fan base, which has been an occasional knock against the organization.
2010 Ortiz went from zero to hero last year, hitting .185/.284/.287 through June 1 with just one homer in 208 plate appearances, and .264/.356/.548 with 27 dingers in 419 PA thereafter. That four-month run was better than his injury-shortened 2008 season, but not by much, and his first two months can’t be entirely discounted. Ortiz has largely stopped hitting lefties and hit just .223/.323/.415 on the road over the past two seasons. None of this comes as a surprise, and with Papi entering the final year of his contract it’s not even all that poorly timed. Still, Ortiz’s five-year peak was so brilliant that it’s not much fun to watch.
2009 Though Manny Ramirez's messy exit got all the attention, Ortiz's dip in power had at least as significant an impact on Boston's season. Ortiz had just recovered from a painfully slow start (.184/.294/.350 in April) when he tore a tendon sheath in his left wrist and landed on the disabled list. Though he showed few ill effects statistically when he returned after nearly 50 games on the shelf (batting .277/.385/.529 in 55 games), the intimidating stroke of old was absent; he missed on pitches he used to crush and became noticeably more patient, trying to get on base however he could despite his diminished swing. Ortiz believes the wrist will be healthy for 2009 after a prolonged rest. As Ortiz goes, so go the Red Sox, so they can only hope he's correct.
2008 It was the best year of his career, and no one noticed. Ortiz didn't have 52 homers, or 148 RBI, or 22 memorable late-inning hits. He just went out and raked, setting career highs in batting average, OBP, WARP, hits, and doubles. The knee problems he played through are a major concern for a player who carries a lot of weight, but with maybe two more good years, he becomes a very interesting Hall of Fame case based on peak, postseason, and soft factors (such as his reputation for clutch hits and his contribution to the Red Sox' dramatic 2004 World Championship).
2007 It may be heresy to suggest that Big Papi enjoyed his finest season in a Red Sox uniform in 2006, but he set personal bests in OBP, SLG, and EqA, broke the franchise single-season home run record (besting Jimmie Foxx`s 50 in 1938), and tied the AL record for home runs in road games (32, matching Babe Ruth`s 1927 mark). For those arguing that he`s got that special clutch goodness, he also led the AL in hitter Win Expectancy (8.14) for the second year in a row. Nonetheless, the final stretch of Ortiz`s season left a bitter aftertaste beyond the Sox`s ignominious fate. Just after Manny Ramirez went down in late August, Ortiz was hospitalized due to an irregular heartbeat, missing a week. His return to the lineup underscored the fact that Ortiz benefits considerably from having an all-time great batting behind him; in 23 Manny-less games following his return, opposing pitchers walked Ortiz 31 times, all but one of the slugger`s nine homers were solo shots, and he drove in just five additional runners. His mid-September comments regarding the upcoming MVP voting--including a petty dismissal of Derek Jeter`s candidacy--and his reaction to the fallout made him appear more focused on individual glory than team success. All in all, the fairytale of 2004 seems a long way away, but as long as he has Ramirez protecting him, there`s no reason he can`t continue his heroics.
2006 Big Papi has reached Orr/Bird/Brady status in Boston with his great statistics and numerous game-ending homers over the past few seasons. Having such a great player as your DH comes with a cost-the ability to rest some of your older, banged-up, veterans over the course of the season by keeping them off the field. Ramirez`s DH appearances the past four seasons: 50, 26, 18, and two. It`s a small price to pay.
2005 What else can you say about Big Papi that hasn't already been said? Ortiz had one of the great postseasons of all time, officially arriving on the stage as a superstar and savior of a beleaguered Nation. He improved on virtually all his major statistical measures for the fourth year in a row and thrust himself into the middle of the wide-open MVP discussion in the AL. Though he did lose out to Vladimir Guerrero in the end, the Red Sox were prescient enough to sign him to a two-year, $12.5 million extension in May. While that move may have been questioned considering the significant players headed for free agency at the end of the season, it looks downright psychic now, a major coup for the young Boston front office.
2004 Like Nixon, had an outstanding year despite utter ineptitude against southpaws. Early on, he was the odd man out in the first base/DH surplus, finally settling in after Hillenbrand and Giambi were voted off the island. Through June, he was hitting .294 with four home runs, prompting Manny Ramirez to regularly refer to David as "Juan Pierre." Suitably chastened, Ortiz was the best hitter in the league for the second half (.284, .360, .661, with 27 home runs), even if he wasn't a legitimate MVP candidate, as some postulated.
2003 Welcome to the New Economics. We’ve warned for years that the benefits of arbitration shouldn’t really trickle down to baseball’s middle class, because a smart organization can just non-tender or release a solid player rather than leave it to an arbitrator to set his value; solid players can be replaced through player development and/or a sharp eye on the waiver wire. It would have made more sense to non-tender Mientkiewicz and go to arbitration with Ortiz, but Ortiz’s annual struggle to stay healthy probably squelched that idea. Ortiz is a thoroughly useful DH, but this winter’s market of free agents is flooded with useful DHs. As a Red Sox, he’s every bit as nifty a pickup as Jeremy Giambi.
2002 Ortiz is a reasonable offensive player, which means that as a Twin, he was injured during 2001. He started the season off monstrously before suffering a fractured wrist in early May that kept him out of action for two-and-a-half months. Ortiz looks like he should be some sort of bashing ox, and he began the season that way, but he's never been healthy or played long enough for anyone to find out what he can really do. Some scouts think he can be Mo Vaughn in his prime; others think he’ll be the shadow of the Hit Dog on whom the Angels spent a bunch of money. Ortiz is probably in the wrong organization to get the playing time he needs.
2001 After being demoted in 1999 because of questions about his attitude, David Ortiz made a point of not getting cranky about sitting during the first half. That made a good impression, but he still has a long way to go as far as conditioning and preparation. If you start reading stories about him coming into camp in great shape, that projection is low. If he doesn’t, he’ll have a hard time matching it. Kelly is never going to play him regularly at first base, so he has to hit to stick.
2000 The organization’s litmus test to see if they want to get better in a hurry or just do things their way. Ortiz is accused of having an attitude, and he catches flak for bad glovework and his weight. Ullger says he’s gotten into bad habits at the plate: he had been pitched outside for so long that he wasn’t adjusting to anything inside in the majors, diving across the plate without keeping his head or hands still. Despite all that, he has the best power in the organization, so the question is whether Kelly will work with Ortiz or bury him.
1999 Ortiz took a big leap forward last year in terms of plate discipline. A broken bone in his right wrist took a chunk out of his year, and appeared to curtail his power when he returned. Don't worry about it. Ortiz could take another big step forward this year; 23 is an age where many players boost their power. Get him.
1998 Ortiz (known as David Arias when he first came to the big leagues from the Dominican Republic) had a solid year at A-ball and Double-A and then hit .327 in a cup of coffee with the Twins. He is very young, and the Twins may want him to have more than a half-season at Double-A before they hand him a starting job in the majors, but his upside is very high. Think Dave Parker.

Related Content:  David Ortiz,  Papi

1 comment has been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: PE... (10/11)
<< Previous Column
The BP Wayback Machine... (03/28)
Next Column >>
The BP Wayback Machine... (10/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: A... (10/12)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article The Call-Up: Tyler Wade
Baseball Therapy: The Pendulum Swings Back
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: What is up with Zack Godl...
Fantasy Article Deep League Report: Week 13
Short Relief: Curses of Confidence, Aging, a...
Cold Takes: The Need For (More Than) Speed
Circle Change: Freddie Freeman's Blank Lotto...

MORE FROM OCTOBER 12, 2016
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Cy Young Catchers
Playoff Prospectus: RIP: Even-Year Magic
Playoff Prospectus: Short-Rest Seesaw
Premium Article Prospectus Feature: AFL Preview: Glendale De...
Premium Article Prospectus Feature: AFL Preview: Peoria Jave...
BP Boston
Premium Article Minor League Update: AFL Games of October 11...

MORE BY BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
2017-03-03 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avoid: Long-Term Starting...
2016-11-12 - BP360
2016-10-21 - The BP Wayback Machine: Big Teix
2016-10-12 - The BP Wayback Machine: Fare Thee Well, Papi
2016-07-22 - BP Announcements: Baseball Prospectus Night ...
2016-06-14 - The 2014 Re-Draft
2016-06-09 - BP Announcements: Baseball Prospectus Night ...
More...

MORE THE BP WAYBACK MACHINE
2016-10-21 - The BP Wayback Machine: Big Teix
2016-10-12 - The BP Wayback Machine: Fare Thee Well, Papi
2016-03-28 - The BP Wayback Machine: Now There Are Zero L...
2016-03-25 - The BP Wayback Machine: A Penny, Now, Lost
2016-03-16 - The BP Wayback Machine: Free Willie
More...