Saturday, May 17, 2014

Papi's Prodigious Power

Ortiz has outhomered all but two players in Red Sox history
After his recent home run barrage in Minnesota, David Ortiz has gone deep more times than anyone in the history of the Boston Red Sox, save Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski (who need no introduction). Ortiz already topped 23 taters in all 11 of his seasons with Boston prior to this one, averaging 34 per season, and with 11 already he's well on his way to doing it again in 2014.

Papi's power has been a mainstay in the heart of Boston's order for more than a decade. The Dominican DH has been soaring up the team's leaderboards since 2003, when he debuted with the Sox by slamming 31 home runs, posting a .961 OPS and finishing fifth in the MVP voting. It was the beginning of a remarkable run for Ortiz, who bashed 41 round-trippers the following year, 47 more the year after that and peaked at 54 in 2006--shattering Jimmie Foxx's single season franchise record of 50 which had stood since 1938. 

Even as Ortiz's home run production tailed off a bit after 2006 (he hasn't exceeded 35 since), Big Papi kept adding to his totals and climbed to fifth place midway through the 2010 season--his sixth with at least 30 dingers. He remained there until this year, when he leapfrogged Dwight Evans and Jim Rice in rapid succession. Ortiz needed much fewer at-bats than either of the long-time Sox sluggers; "Dewey" Evans came to the plate more than 10,000 times in his 19 seasons with the team, while Rice played his entire 16-year career in Boston and amassed over 9,000 plate appearances. Ortiz, now in his 12th season with the Sox, has yet to reach even 7,000 plate appearances. His 14.9 AB/HR ratio is fourth-best all-time among Sox sluggers, bested only by former teammate Manny Ramirez, Foxx, and Williams, and since the start of the 2003 season he has more long balls than everyone in baseball except for two: Albert Pujols and Adam Dunn.

After remaining in fifth place for nearly four years, the three-time World Series champion won't be escaping third place anytime soon. He still needs almost 70 bombs to reach Yastrzemski, who went yard 452 times in his 23 seasons. At 521, Williams is out of reach, unless by some miracle Ortiz remains a premier power hitter into his mid-forties. Assuming Papi finishes this season with around 400 dingers (perhaps a bit conservative seeing as how he's on pace to club 42 this year), he'd still need two more very good seasons to catch Yaz. Considering his age--38 and a half--that seems like a tall task, but Ortiz has showed no signs of slowing down and just might be able to pull it off. He's under contract for next year, and the Red Sox will surely bring him back as long as he continues to hit. 

So until an injury pops up or Ortiz starts to decline, it remains a very real possibility that the nine-time All-Star will finish his Red Sox career with more circuit drives than anyone besides Teddy Ballgame. And, if Papi eclipses Yaz or falls just short, he'll reach the 500 home run plateau and seriously bolster his Hall of Fame chances (more on that to come). Regardless of where he ends up, he'll go down as one of the best sluggers the Sox have ever had.

So even if he never hits another home run, his place in Red Sox history, as well as the organization's Hall of Fame, is secure. 

1 comment:

  1. Big Papi is one of the greatest sluggers of all time and a Hall of Famer hands down once he reaches 500 HR.