The Red Sox are slumping again, having lost two of three to the Yankees over the weekend and 10 of their last 12, ruthlessly obliterating whatever momentum they seemingly had immediately following the All-Star Break. One of the few Bostonians who's not is David Ortiz, who boldly proclaimed before the start of the second half that was "about to get hotter than Jamaica in the middle of August."
I've never been to Jamaica, but apparently that's pretty hot.
Ortiz, who showed signs of breaking out prior to the All-Star Break, has caught fire over the past two weeks. Counting last night's three-run bomb off the Yankees' Chase Whitley, Papi's socked six homers and knocked in 18 runs over his last 12 games, during which time he's slugged .744. He passed Carl Yastrzemski on the home run list, Mickey Mantle on the RBI list, and gave us this wicked cool bat flip. Ortiz is now up to 26 homers and 82 RBI on the season, comfortably on pace to blow away last year’s totals of 30 and 103 (health permitting, of course) with 51 games still to play. He's projected to finish with 38 and 120, numbers he hasn't reached since 2006.
Though his OPS is down more than 100 points from last year, Ortiz is still the most dangerous bat in Boston's lineup by far. He's tops in slugging, OPS, and total bases. He has twice as many big flies as their number two slugger/cleanup hitter Mike Napoli and nearly twice as many ribbies as the team's second-best RBI man Dustin Pedroia. With so little help around him, it's no wonder Ortiz has been intentionally walked more than anyone else in baseball.
That says a lot about the lack of protection for Ortiz in the Red Sox lineup. What says even more is that of the 131 times he's reached base this year (excluding his 26 home runs), the people behind him have driven him in only 17 times. That means 87 percent of the time Ortiz has gotten on base, he's been stranded there. Ortiz is slow, but c'mon.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's really impressive Ortiz has stayed hot for so long. If I'm a pitcher, I'm not giving Papi anything to hit unless I absolutely have to (and if I do, it's pitching to the shift by busting him inside). Give him the Barry Bonds treatment. Give him first base and make the other Red Sox beat you, because they've proven time and time again this year that they're incapable of doing that.
On second thought, I guess that means it doesn't hurt to surrender the occasional long ball to Ortiz, either.