Another week, a few more games, and the talk of the town is still Big Papi’s bat. It doesn’t matter if the Red Sox win or lose — the water cooler chit-chat is the same.
The team has been hitting. Shiny new shortstop Marco Scutaro is batting .310 with a hefty OBP. But that doesn’t even tell the whole story: On Wednesday, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweeted this amazing nugget: “Scutaro hasn’t swung and missed at any pitches, period, so far this season.”
Then there’s Jeremy Hermida, hitting .294 with six RBIs. Dustin Pedroia continues to lead the team with homers (four), Adrian Beltre’s hitting .303, and even Jason Varitek is, in the world’s smallest sample size, 2-for-4 with two homers.
But all of this only makes David’s anemic .154 average and .241 OBP stand out even more. And when Boston’s bats go silent — as they did on Thursday, getting blanked 8-0 by the Twins — we’re still piling on the designated hitter who isn’t hitting. Even when he’s riding the pine, as he did in the loss.
Ortiz has struck out in 50 percent of his at-bats this season, the worst K-rate on the team. (Scutaro, by contrast, has struck out in less than 10 percent.) But is Ortiz lunging at pitches outside of the strike zone, as some (and by some, I mean my co-worker Scott) have alleged? (I’m trusting that you know your own “Scott” at your workplace.) Not according to his plate discipline statistics. David has actually swung at fewer pitches outside the zone than any of his teammates, save Scutaro. But still, when he’s swinging, he’s missing: He has the worst contact rate of anyone on the team, putting wood on the ball just 58.5 percent of the time he takes a cut.
That means he’s missing pitches inside the strike zone. And that’s because, yep, his ability to hit fastballs has been in decline since 2006.
But does it mean he won’t — or can’t — contribute? That’s he’s washed up, kaput, finito? No. I’m heartened, at least, by the number of pitches he’s taking each time he comes up to bat: 4.9, almost a full pitch higher than usual. And his average on balls in play is healthy; when he does make contact, it has about a normal chance of resulting in a hit. Given that it’s, ahem, April, he’s probably not going to be as bad as his average looks right now.
And if he is? Well, I guess he’s getting old. But you know what? So are you.
– Sarah Green also writes for UmpBump.com.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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