Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is David Ortiz getting back to normal?

It looked all but over. David Ortiz was done, and there was no doubt about it. He even had to defend himself, saying that people needed to “trust him” because he was “not finished”. The Red Sox dropped him from his usual 3rd spot in the lineup to 6th and it appeared there was nothing else to do if he continued to struggle. But, something strange happened along the way to retirement: he started hitting again. Over the last two weeks, he is hitting over .300 and has an OPS of over .1000. His overall numbers are still terrible, one of the ten worst hitters in the Major Leagues among regular players. Could it be that he is still a really good player that had a few really bad months?

He was also a slow starter last year too, although for not as long. He hit .198 through April, but turned it around in May. This is a considerably longer slump, but he is not necessarily a lost cause or washed up. In 2007, J.D. Drew started off his Red Sox career by hitting .216 through the end of May with 2 home runs. He did not have his best year, but he rebounded to finish the year hitting .270 and hit .280 last year with 19 home runs. If people are expecting Big Papi to hit 50 home runs again, that might be asking too much. I would not be surprised to see him finish with numbers similar to 2008, when he had 23 home runs and 89 RBI with a .264 average. He will have to hit well the rest of the season, but he is capable of putting up big numbers if he is right. The Red Sox lineup should provide him with ample RBI opportunities throughout the season. He is only hitting .238 at Fenway where he typically hits over .300, so if he even approaches that his batting average will soar. He has also hit 4 home runs, of his 5 for the year, in his past 23 AB, a very good sign.

Red Sox fans should reserve judgment for a while because you should not place too much hope on only a few weeks. If I had told the Red Sox in May, during the depth of his slump, that Ortiz would hit .300 with 4 home runs through the first few weeks of June, they might not have believed me and surely would have been excited. It is good news for baseball if he is back, it was too sad to see such a sudden decline for a beloved player.

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