Who is David Ortiz’s trainer? It’s hard to imagine just a few years ago, the Fenway Faithful was asking for his release after a slow spring start. He finished 2009 with a .238 batting average, often sitting against lefties throughout the season. After hitting a video-game like .688 during last year’s World Series, Big Papi is not slowing down any time soon.
He is currently hitting .253 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs midway through the year, on pace for his eighth 30+ homer, 100+ RBI season with the Red Sox. The perennial post-season smasher, Ortiz brings his best moments in the clutch games. In the team’s three World Series victories, Ortiz has a postseason slugging percentage of .764 (2004), .696 (2007) and .706 (2013). He continues to deliver batting .345 with two outs and runners in scoring position. Ortiz single-handily willed his team to the championship last year. His grand-slam on the first pitch from Joaquin Benoit shifted the momentum for the Red Sox in the ALCS.
At 38, maintaining his health and providing ample rest over the course of a long 162-game season is most important for coach John Farrell. Ortiz has gotten his regular days off and played first base on occasion in the National League parks. Mike Napoli is not exactly Manny Ramirez, so without much help in the Red Sox lineup, Ortiz has still managed to put up strong numbers. He will likely start as the Designated Hitter in the All-Star game.
But as the defending World Series champs struggle for identity post-Jacoby Ellsbury, Ortiz’s bat is needed much more. No other player has even 40 RBIs and Napoli is second on the team with 10 homers. If the Red Sox are hopeful to defend their title, they will likely do so without Ortiz’s bat. As he continues to rake, opponents are going to throw around, giving Ortiz fewer opportunities to hit. He already has 44 walks and that number is only going to climb as teams gear up for the playoffs.
It is refreshing to see Big Papi, the Boston icon that carried the Red Sox to their first World Series title after 86 years, succeed even now. Big Papi just clubbed his 450th home run of his career. He has already imprinted his play in Red Sox Nations’ hearts across the globe. Hopefully he has enough to help his team for another postseason run.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/.