Another year of baseball for the Boston Red Sox and another year with David Ortiz in the middle of their lineup. Ortiz is entering is 10th season with the Red Sox and with the retirement of Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek he is now the longest tenured player on the roster. Ortiz had to shake off rocky starts in 2009 & 2010 but he finally found his consistency again last season when he started off hot and stayed consistent throughout the season. The Red Sox will be looking for more of that this season and with Ortiz looking for another contract at the end of the year don’t look for him to take the foot off of the pedal.
Here’s a look at Ortiz’s 2011 season (career highs in parentheses):
Games: 146 (159, 2005)
Average: .309 (.332, 2007)
On-Base Percentage: .398 (.445, 2007)
Slugging Percentage: .554 (.636, 2006)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .953 (1.066, 2007)
Home Runs: 29 (54, 2006)
Runs Batted In: 96 (148, 2005)
Runs: 84 (119, 2005)
Doubles: 40 (52, 2007)
Walks: 78 (119, 2006)
Ortiz has been amazingly consistent over the years and it’s hard to see a tremendous drop-off coming, at least for this season. There are rarely any full-time DHs in the game today, most are older players who spent the bulk of career in the field, but Ortiz has made being a full-time DH into an art form. Some guys, like the White Sox’ Adam Dunn, are not comfortable making the transition to DH but Ortiz has been a full-time DH since he came to Boston in 2003. He’s grown comfortable in the role. He’s a 7-time All-Star and a 5-time Silver Slugger winner. All he does is hit and he will continue to do so as long as he is healthy and he stays in the lineup.
There was concern about Ortiz and his slow starts going into last season but he put an end to that talk early by hitting well in April and May. The question now is which was the anomaly at this point in his career – the two slow starts or last year’s quick start out of the gate? Either way the last time David Ortiz had less than 20 home runs in a season was when he hit 18 in 2001 with the Twins. That was also the last time he was under 75 RBI in a season. Ortiz will once again be playing for a contract this season as he is playing on the one-year deal he signed a few weeks ago. As Ortiz told writers after Varitek’s retirement ceremony he doesn’t plan on hanging them up anytime soon either.
There could be a few reasons for his fall off in 2009 and 2010 and his subsequent return to form last season. The first is his lingering wrist injury that cost him over 50 games in 2008 bothered him early in the year in ’09 and ’10 but had recovered enough that it wasn’t so much of an issue at the beginning of last season. The second thing is lineup protection. Manny Ramirez was traded at the deadline in 2008 and Ortiz lost his partner in crime in the middle of the lineup. Jason Bay was productive in his year and a half in Boston but it seemed like he was more of the benefactor in his partnership with Ortiz. In 2011 Ortiz was paired with Adrian Gonzalez, a power hitting first baseman entering his prime. That could be the single biggest reason that Ortiz stayed consistent for an entire year – he got his Manny back. Couple that with an improving Jacoby Ellsbury and an ever consistent Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz may have the best lineup protection that he’s had since he’s been in Boston.
Ortiz has been a Red Sox player for 10 years and has been ingrained in the history of the team with his exploits over the years so obviously he did not take the happenings of late last season lightly. He has talked at length about what happened in the clubhouse in 2011 and seems to be ready to take a bigger role in ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. Ortiz and Pedroia will be the heart and soul of that clubhouse.
Ortiz should enjoy more success as he looks to cash in on any remaining chance he has left. It looks like he will be going year to year for a contract from here on in so he will be motivated to perform. It doesn’t look like we’re at the end of the road for Papi quite yet so you can expect another year of 20+ home runs and 75+ RBI. He’ll enjoy hitting in a top 6 with Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford. Ortiz won’t be around forever but you can expect him to produce for at least another year.
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