David Ortiz is a unique player who has followed a unique career path. While Big Papi broke into the majors with Minnesota at only age 21, he didn’t have his first 20 homer season until 2002 when he was 26.
That makes five years of a large first basemen in a bandbox ballpark not hitting for great power. The doubles were there, Ortiz recorded 30, twice before reaching the 20 homer plateau, but Ortiz never put it all together.
Following 2002 Ortiz was shipped to Boston where his career would really take off. From 2003-2007 he was arguably the best hitter in baseball, posting career highs of .332/54/148 in various seasons. Papi and Manny Ramirez combined for one of the best one-two punches since Ruth/Gehrig, and Redsox nation loved it.
However in 2008 the wheels started to fall off, as Ortiz’s injuries appeared to catch up to him. His power total dropped to only 23 homers, he batted only .264 and drove in less than one hundred runs for the first time he has been in Boston.
This year it has gotten out of hand. Through 161 plate appearances Ortiz has no homers, and is struggling to bat above .200.
So what’s wrong?
The easy answer is the removal of Manny Ramirez. Without the hitter of a generation hitting behind him, maybe Ortiz isn’t as scary? But he still does have Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkalis, Jason Bay, and JD Drew hitting around him….so plate protection is still there.
Maybe the problem is that Papi, who is now 33, is over the hill. Yes, 33 is not that old for most ball players, especially ones who didn’t start to play every day until the age of 27/28. However, if you look at other ‘big bodied’ players like Ortiz, such as Mo Vaughn, or Cecil Fielder, both of their careers ended in their early to mid 30’s. Perhaps Big Papi is just worn out?
If the Redsox decide he is. They may look to Washington and target Nick Johnson as their new DH. He’d fit in well in the Sox line-up, as he is an on base conscious, line drive hitting professional hitter.
Johnson is also in his last year under contract with Washington, and for the first time in a long while he is healthy. The Nats should dump him for some pitching help as soon as possible, and clear the way for Morrero.