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David Ortiz is now 78 at bats deep this season and has not hit a home run. That’s a really long time for a guy who was hitting 1 every 18 at bats in an injury-riddled 2008. So is Ortiz finished or is there a power surge waiting to happen? Here are some things to consider…

  1. The Manny Ramirez Factor. Everyone wants to give him this excuse, but I’m not sure how valid it is on and off the field. Starting on the field, Ortiz shouldn’t be effected. He’s got last season’s MVP hitting in front of him and through 19 games this season, this year’s MVP hitting behind him. How much more protection could Manny provide? Off the field, Bill Simmons says they were tight, but Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald and WEEI Sports Radio has argued they weren’t the closest of friends. Whatever the case, do you really think the guy’s feelings is what’s ailing him on a fastball? That’s just silly. Let’s throw out the Manny Factor.
  2. The Wrist Injury. Is it still bothering him? Last year he would tell the media it was bothering him. A lot of times players are quiet about injuries, but that wasn’t the case with Ortiz last year. He won the sympathy of the fans and media as a result and was given the benefit of the doubt. Going back to Spring Training he has claimed that he feels great and at this point one would have to think he would be desperate to use any excuse he can find. He still hasn’t blamed the wrist. This leads me to believe the wrist is fine.
  3. The Slow Start Pattern. That’s always a possibility and always what the optimist and the hopeful fantasy player will believe. Last April, Ortiz hit .198 which is even worse than what he’s doing now. He did still hit 5 home runs in the season’s first month last year. Over the course of his career he has slugged .518 in April (compared to .551 overall) but that weak number is relatively strong compared to his .300-something slugging percentage this year. This isn’t just another slow start, it’s the worst start of his career.
  4. The Pace. If Ortiz keeps scoring and driving in runs at the current rate and can play in 150 games (sounds realistic if he can avoid the DL) he would score 75 runs and drive home 90. They aren’t terrible numbers given how terrible he’s hit. In 2006 he hit 54 home runs, that season is out of the question. In 2007 he hit 35 home runs, and that season is out of the question. Last year he had 23 home runs, and if he puts it together he will be plenty capable of beating that total. Remember he only played 109 games last year. If he does get over 23 dingers, one would have to think that the runs and RBI go up. Doesn’t 90-25-105 seem possible? And if so, isn’t that something to buy on?
  5. Mechanics. No idea how this stuff works. I said it. What I do know is that in his brilliant 2006 season, Ortiz hit 14 home runs in July and only 5 in August. If he does correct a flaw in his swing, which is all his hitting coach seems to think is wrong, that could be the band aid that stops the blood.
  6. Old Age Coming Off Injury. Well at 33, there’s no need for a wheel chair, but he is a big dude, and he was hurt. He claims to be healed now, but he is also more vulnerable later. If not a wrist something else could happen. The article above references Mo Vaughn (former MVP) who was hurt his age 33 season and out of baseball at age 35. Cecil Fielder, who was another big hitter, didn’t have an at-bat after age 34. Carlos Delgado over-came the age bug last year, but he doesn’t have the body or injury history of Ortiz.
  7. Who Owns Him? If it’s you, what do you think? Which of the above factors most excites or worries you? If it’s not you ask the other owner what they think of him. Unless it’s a 6 team league there’s no way he’ll get released. Getting a guy drafted in the fourth round on the cheap isn’t easy, but there’s an opportunity to buy cheap right now if you’re ready to gamble.
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4 Responses to Big or Little Papi?

  1. Charlie Saponara says:

    I mostly tried to avoid Ortiz this season. I’m really not keen on drafting DH only guys unless they are in their prime and putting up show stopping numbers. I did, however, get Ortiz in one league because he fell so far that I was almost compelled to take him. I haven’t started him for a week and a half, but put him back in the lineup today. I like how you ran through these different scenarios, using the method as a way of debunking or proving common questions about Ortiz so far this season. If you remember, I hit on some of these points in this article (link below). The comps to Mo Vaughn and Cecil Fielder only go to show what happened to a “bigger” slugger, though both Vaughn and Fielder were carrying considerably more weight than Ortiz at this point in their career’s. I keep hearing it’s all mechanical right now with Ortiz, that he’s behind or late on pitches (which is really timing, not mechanics). Interestingly enough that was the same problem I kept hearing about Carlos Delgado early last season when he hit .198 with 3 HR in April. From May through July, Delgado increased his power production every single month. The key, I heard, was that Delgado was “starting his swing earlier”. Meaning not that he was swinging the bat through the zone earlier, but that he started his pre-swing mechanics earlier (A batter’s first movement in preparation to swing up to the point where the bat begins through the zone). In other words, he wasn’t getting beat on those inside fastballs anymore.

    As for me, I will stick with Ortiz because at age 33 he’s not over the hill by any stretch. In the meantime I’d look for a guy like Russell Branyan or Cody Ross to fill the gap (or whomever is available that might be a better option). If this situation continues to linger on, more questions will be raised and more information is likely to come out. At that point hopefully we’ll have a better explanation as to what exactly the problem is.

  2. Schruender says:

    I remember reading that article at the time you wrote it. I think most drafts saw Ortiz slip anyway because of all the uncertainty that surrounded him and the lack of a position to put him at. I think you are right – generally baseball players prime can last until they are 32 years old so he shouldn’t be doing a nose dive. I like the idea of adding Cody Ross and Strikeout Branyan and also adding Kendry Morales to the list since he’s been hot lately.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m in a keeper league and this is my fifth year with Ortiz on my team. I’ve seen him slump before, not quite this bad on the HR front, and there is one thing I’ve learned. He always busts out of it and when he does, he busts out in a BIG way. Low power production or not, you have to keep him active because you do not want to miss the monster stats that will come. By Memorial Day, he’ll be where he should be with HR, 2Bs and RBI, and we can move on to other topics.

  4. Schruender says:

    When the streaks come you just don’t want to miss out. I’m with you – I could totally see Ortiz doing something similar to what Carlos Pena is up to now.

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