Sometimes, when I get sad, I think of David Ortiz. So today, with Boston’s once-14.5 game lead over the Yankees now a minute 2.5 games, shall I dwell on Eric Gagne? Or shall I consider Big Papi? Friends, I choose the latter.
It’s been common knowledge this season that David Ortiz has “struggled.” But then, just the the other day, I received the following intriguing “stat of the day” from Baseball Prospectus:
Top 5 2007 Designated Hitters, by VORP
Player, Team, EqA, VORP
David Ortiz, BOS, .334, 75.7
Jim Thome, CHA, .304, 35.9
Gary Sheffield, DET, .293, 34.3
Jack Cust, OAK, .314, 31.8
Jose Vidro, SEA, .281, 28.0
That is pretty freakin’ ridiculous. Ortiz’s VORP is over twice that of the second-best DH in baseball! And this in an “off-year” for the mighty slugger. How could this be? Clearly, our impression of Ortiz this year had been distorted because of last season’s power surge. In 2006, he slugged a ridiculous number of home runs for a second straight season of clutch-hitting awesomeness. Thus, this year, he appeared merely excellent, instead of alien-from-outer-space-esque. He’s thirteenth in the league with runners in scoring position (.340 this afternoon) and, despite playing hurt all year, still has 31 homers and 107 RBI. His .321 average, .435 OBP and 3 (count ‘em!) stolen bases are all career highs. His 47 doubles match his career best (in 2004). Yes, his SLG of .596 is at its lowest point since 2003, and that’s sad. But the ability to adapt; the ability to accept that yes, that knee is not strong enough to give him the PapiPower to drive the ball over the shift and into the bullpen; the ability to admit he’s going to have to go the opposite way or continue to get foiled by the shift; these personal and professional qualities have been key for David this season. Add that to the fact that Manny Ramirez, David’s protection in the lineup, has been having a power outage this year as well, and the lovable lug’s accomplishments in 2007 look even more impressive.
Remember, sports fans, you read it here: David Ortiz is not having an off-year.