I’d like to welcome Hans Horn from The View From The Dugout. Hans took me up on an offer to write a guest post. He’s also a first generation American, loved baseball at an early age and grew up teaching himself about the all aspects of game. Whether debating the importance of a thinking catcher, analyzing peripherals to uncover a great sleeper, or just taking in a pitchers duel with a dog and a beer, he enjoys it all.
Where have you gone David Ortiz? Can the protection of Manny “I’m On Fertility Medication” Ramirez really have been that big an impact on your game? Last I checked, Kevin Youkilis is hitting.
That Ortiz has shown no power to date is well known. He has yet to hit his first home run of the year. His On-Base Percentage is higher (.338) than his Slugging Percentage (.328). And he’s hit almost as many Infield Fly Balls (9) as he has Doubles (10). This is not the Big Papi we are used to.
But a closer look at the way teams are pitching him and how he is responding is equally shocking. In his most productive years, 2005-2007, Ortiz saw fastballs 56.9%, 54.6%, and 51.9% of the time. This year, he’s seeing the heat 54.5% of the time. The difference is where they are throwing them.
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone (45.3%) than any time in his career. As Papi puts it, “I’m not getting pitches to drive… Two balls, no strikes, fastball on the corner? That’s not a pitch you want to swing at.” And yet, pitchers are getting more strikes (59.1%) than any year since 2004.
The reason? Ortiz IS swinging at balls out of the strike zone (25.7%) more than ever before. What’s more, he’s not hitting them well. Papi is getting jammed and popping the ball up 54.3% of the time. He has hit infield flyballs at more than twice the rate of any year before. And swinging at junk instead of getting on base leads to just more bad pitches.
So, is there hope? While he is swinging at balls more than normal, Papi is still showing plenty of patience, currently on pace for 104 walks. Over the course of the last week, he’s walked 8 times to only 3 strikeouts, with .300/.650/.450 slash stats. That last part may seem low, but that’s a 1.100 OPS. And getting on base more often in front of hot hitters like Youk and Bay has a way of turning into seeing better pitches.
That said, this could be where Ortiz turns it around; something he’s done before. Last April, he hit .198 and slugged .375. In May and June he followed it with averages of .318 and .391 and slugging of .617 and .609, respectively.
If you’ve got some anxious owner in your league, it might be the time to pick up the phone.