Hopefully by now, you know that I’m a big fan of the Boston Red Sox. By the powers of simple deduction, that leads, henceforth, to being a big fan of David Ortiz. I say this only to clarify for anybody incensed by the title of this article.
I will miss Big Papi dearly, sorely even. Depending on how the team performs with Ortiz sipping margaritas on a beach, there could even be some grief. Yet, I can guarantee that there will be no sense of regret.
Regret? I didn’t do anything. I didn’t tweet at Ortiz to keep playing. I didn’t call Manny Ramirez and beg him to convince Ortiz to play another year. I didn’t even stand outside Papi’s window playing him a “Never Retire” mix tape on my boombox.
I did none of those felonious scenarios and I will live regret free due to my apparent inaction. But is it actually apathetic?
To answer that, I would need a bullhorn to shout “NO!” loud enough. I have actively elected not to jump on the bandwagon of people conjecturing that if he is playing at such a high level at 40 years old, should he reconsider and play another year? That is absolute crap.
Why can’t people just sit back and watch somebody go out on top? Wouldn’t you like to only be able to remember your heroes — your favorite players — as the gods we sometimes imagine them to be?
Well, I know that’s what I’m enjoying about Ortiz’s swan song. And what a season it’s been so far.
Back on May 14, Ortiz had an incredible, albeit typically “clutch” game that is part of the mythos we’ll all remember him by. He homered, tripled, and then hit a walk-off double. That double? It was his 600th career two-bagger.
With that double, he joined a very elite group of players with 600 career doubles and 500 career homers. A group so elite, it has only three members: Ortiz, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds.
Additionally, those are three of his 39 extra base hits (before Thursday’s game) on the season. What’s special about that is that he is on pace to break Babe Ruth‘s all-time, single-season record of 119 XBHs. Seeing as that Ortiz has played in just a tick under 89 percent of the Sox’ games this season, that record might be slightly out of his reach. Nonetheless, even coming close to that record while 40 years old is something to behold.
Ruth was 26 years old when he set that record. That should provide some extra perspective on just how good of a season the Large Father is having, so far.
One question is if he can keep this up? Sustainability of pace is one factor that could hamper Ortiz over the next four months. And injury is always a concern for a 40-year-old. As a designated hitter, however, there’s a reduction in that risk. We will only know when the calendar turns to October.
Would you like another fun factoid about Papi’s season? I thought you would.
For seasons age 38-to-40, there are 19 player seasons in the history of baseball with an on-base percentage of .350+, .500+ slugging, .850+ OPS, and a .250+ isolated slugging percentage. All of Ortiz’s last three seasons meet those qualifications (Barry Bonds did it twice, in his age-38 and 39 seasons). When you rank them by highest slugging percentage, this year’s mark of .728 is miles ahead of his marks in 2014 and 2015 (.517 and .553 respectively). It is also the fourth-best mark, ever.
It should be noted that I chose the minimum of a .250 ISO, because FanGraphs lists that as “excellent” in their glossary.
Again, the question of sustainability creeps into the mind of even the least skeptical fan. If he does keep this up, are we potentially witnessing the greatest age-40 season ever? At least as far as a hitter’s value is concerned.
What of that value? Baseball Reference has Ortiz currently producing at a level of 2.6 WAR so far this season. I asked them what that might extrapolate to for the full season. Their answer did not disappoint.
@Rev_Gabelicious Probably 7.5ish, assuming he has 600ish PAs
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) June 3, 2016
That would be a career high for Ortiz, as his 2007 season was worth 6.4 WAR. Is this actually possible? Again, I cannot foresee the future.
If Ortiz does arrive at October’s door with these rates, paces, and values still intact, his final season will be the stuff of legend.
I will certainly miss his massive, electric smile. I will miss the spitting into his gloves and rubbing them together as he gets ready in the batter’s box to destroy another inside pitch. I will miss how genuine and kind he seems to be — I’ve never met him in person. And I will miss his uncanny ability to get the hit that propels the Red Sox to victory when they need it most.
What I won’t miss are memories of a broken down, aged slugger who hung on for too long.