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31 comments… add one
  • Lets play the game we did with the Arod photo after his first HR, what does this photo show you?
    To me it looks like he realizes the moment he is experiencing wont be coming too often…

    sam-YF May 21, 2009, 4:52 am
  • Nice try, Sam, and maybe you’re right.
    But regardless of whether you agreed with SF’s reading of it or not, the A-Rod shot was just a much better photograph, open to all kinds of interpretations. Which I guess is part of the reason why SF put it up at the time.
    Me, I just hope that sometime in September we’ll see another one like this one of David Ortiz on YFSF, the headline then reading “Twenty”.

    pale blue eyes May 21, 2009, 5:25 am
  • Having seen Papi’s dinger a few times on replay, he sure seemed relieved, happy. If A-Rod seemed to be saying “f*ck you” to a whole lot of people, the world in fact (and, who could blame him, really?) Papi seemed to be saying “f*ck you” to a rather horrid slump, basically.
    The best part was the return the the dugout – nobody at the steps, a prank by his teammates. Then the mobbing of Ortiz just after he put his helmet back in the rack. A nice team moment, and a nice moment for Papi. Not sure if he’ll get too many more of these, as Sam says, but at least it was a start. The fans, and I am not sure they deserve much credit for this considering Papi’s history in Boston, have really treated him well, stood behind him. Last night it all came through in the reaction by player, team, and crowd.
    (oh, and agreed – this isn’t much of a photo, compared to the one of A-Rod, it was just convenient, though the guy with the digital camera could almost be seen as a guy taking a picture of a player making his last trip around the park, a la Yaz)

    SF May 21, 2009, 6:07 am
  • You have to wonder how much of Papi’s slump was mental, a little rustiness that spiraled out of control the longer it lingered. In his first two at-bats you could see it on his face, in his swing, in his entire body language. In his at-bat afterwards he seemed to have his swagger back, which he emphasized by crushing a double to center.
    I don’t think he’s going to go back to being 2006 Ortiz, but I certainly think things are going to turn around here for him. The fact that the Boston crowd never gave up on him is big, and the “Let’s go Papi!” cheer that started when he began that at-bat was very emotional.

    Atheose May 21, 2009, 8:10 am
  • The problem is that Ortiz has literally nothing to offer a team if he isn’t OPSing at least .850. The Sox could get that from many folks (and many cheap free agents this past off-season). The best case scenario would seem to be Ortiz getting hot and the Sox finding a trading partner. But I can’t see that happening. Otherwise, the Sox are really hurting themselves if they’re giving 600 ABs (next year too) to a DH hitting under .800 OPS and he has a long way to go to get there.
    And in case anyone is looking to debate the merits of Yankee Stadium 2.0 as a hitter’s park, allow me to enter into evidence something I just found:
    Yankees – 2009
    Home: .275 .365 .493 .858 OPS
    Away: .267 .337 .455 .792 OPS
    Difference = .066 OPS
    Red Sox – 2009
    Home: .303 .385 .516 .901 OPS
    Away: .248 .342 .389 .730 OPS
    Difference = .171 OPS
    Advantage Fenway.

    Rob May 21, 2009, 8:33 am
  • I’m convinced a lot of the problem was (hopefully was, not is, he isn’t on a tear yet) mental. Got on the wrong track with the complaints about having no protection in the line-up after Manny was gone, combined with some insecurities about last year’s nagging injuries, a bad start to the season and it all snowballed from there. Let’s hope last night really was the start towards better things.

    pale blue eyes May 21, 2009, 8:41 am
  • One guy to keep an eye on is Nick Johnson. He’s a free agent at the end of the year. I know I would love to have him back but depending on him for no more than 450 ABs. Still, that’s the problem with signing 1Bs to eight-year contracts. It’s hard to get creative with the rest of the roster. The Sox have that advantage if they properly relegate Ortiz to part-time duty.

    Rob May 21, 2009, 8:44 am
  • Yeah, count me in the group that has a hard time buying the “mental” argument. His bat looks slow. I don’t see how that is, or could be, a matter of confidence and protection.

    Rob May 21, 2009, 8:46 am
  • Well at least now he’s one closer to Gardner. Way to go Papi!

    John - YF May 21, 2009, 8:46 am
  • I would believe the confidence or mental thing if Papi was 27, he’s not. This is what happens to hitters as they age. Funny thing is Baseball HQ called for his decline last season and said it would happen fast, not gradually. Sometimes Ron Shandler is on point.

    John - YF May 21, 2009, 8:53 am
  • The streak is over, I am in no way convinced that the slump is over. He needs to continue to hit, otherwise this is just a blip. Here’s hoping.

    SF May 21, 2009, 8:58 am
  • I would believe the confidence or mental thing if Papi was 27, he’s not. This is what happens to hitters as they age.
    I think that’s too black and white, John. It’s one thing to accept the reality that skills are declining with Papi (they are, most clearly), it’s another thing to dismiss the idea that mental approach isn’t a factor. To me there has to be a combination effect going on: Papi has declining skill, and his brain is having a hard time adjusting to declining skills. It all goes downhill from there.

    SF May 21, 2009, 9:20 am
  • Agreed SF, what I was trying to say was it’s not all due to confidence/mental issues. You are right on in your evaluation. Accepting what you can no longer due definitely takes some adjustment time and could spiral into other issues.

    John - YF May 21, 2009, 9:42 am
  • i still think he’s hurt, or thinking about his recent injuries too much…probably a combination of his knees [asking a lot of them to support all that weight], and his wrist…he’s always looked a little awkward at the plate, to me, even when he was going great…you have to think that maybe the adjustments he made to compensate for the knee and wrist messed up his mechanics a bit…

    dc May 21, 2009, 10:06 am
  • I’m closer to dc’s interpretation even as there seems to be a bit of that in John and SF’s. To me then “mental” is very different than how it’s often used. But yeah, injuries + mechanics + aging means he needs to change his swing. If he can’t (injuries + aging) or won’t (mechanics), there may be no improvement to be had.

    Rob May 21, 2009, 10:35 am
  • I think you are splitting hairs – it seems we all agree basically. Papi has declining physical skills (age, injury, etc.), and his brain needs to help him figure out how to adapt, though he may not even be able to do that, no matter how well he reconsiders his hitting. We’ll see.
    Small sample, but the dinger was a dead-center blast, and he hit a double hard as well. Off lefties, to boot. A good sign, but perhaps only a sign, passed speedily.

    SF May 21, 2009, 10:47 am
  • Yawn. So you can subtract, and the Red Sox are playing better baseball in their home park, presently, than the Yanks. (15-4 v. 12-7.) And so the Red Sox are a much worse road team than the Yanks at this point. This isn’t exactly statistical analysis.
    In September, Boston will be cold, while NYS will still be a wind tunnel. Plus, every seat in Fenway will be filled.

    Hit Dog May 21, 2009, 11:14 am
  • Gee, it seems you missed the point of that “subtraction”. If YS is a “wind tunnel”, what’s Fenway? Katrina?

    Rob May 21, 2009, 11:24 am
  • >> This is what happens to hitters as they age.
    SF addressed this, but I’ll add that this statement is untrue — exactly the opposite of the truth, in fact. I would argue NO hitter has ever dropped off from a 120 OPS+ to a 60 OPS+ solely because he was a year older. Which is why it was and remains highly improbable that Ortiz remain at the level where he sits currently.
    I believe a lot of the slump is mental, caused by very real factors — recovering from injuries that altered his approach and stance, and the more gradual effects of age that began to evidence themselves in 2007. Since 2006, we have every season seen evidence that Ortiz carries a lot with him to the plate mentally (yes, as well as physically). The collapse in ’06 made him worry so much he began having chest pains, and slumps in each of the following three seasons seemed to really affect his demeanor at the plate. It’s odd for a player with the ability to so often rise to the occasion in the clutch to display such traits on a more day-to-day basis, but there it is.
    >>The problem is that Ortiz has literally nothing to offer a team if he isn’t OPSing at least .850. The Sox could get that from many folks (and many cheap free agents this past off-season).
    The league-average OPS for designated hitters this season is .787, a total likely dragged down a bit by Ortiz himself, but requiring that Papi hit .850 to be valuable is simply an arbitrary line with little basis in reality. If the Sox could so easily find somebody else to provide those numbers at the DH slot, then why haven’t the Yankees (.842) or the other 10 American League teams whose designated hitters have failed to reach that magic mark?

    Paul SF May 21, 2009, 11:31 am
  • I think that the problem is partly due to not being 100% physically (coming off that wrist surgery would put some doubts in anyone’s minds), and it snowballed because he was mentally struggling. This past week you could see it in his body language, in his interviews, in his facial expressions.
    Papi is undoubtedly declining. But he’s still a very good hitter, and I’m willing to bet he’ll OPS .900 from this point forward.

    Atheose May 21, 2009, 11:40 am
  • Well, the Yanks and other teams use their DH slot to do more than just plug in a hitter. They use it to spell guys who need a rest (Damon, Posada, A-Rod in the Yanks’ case) while keeping their bat in the lineup. So it does provide a bit more value than just getting another great bat in there. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always thought dominant DHs (like Edgar Martinez) were a bit overrated.
    As for Papi’s performance – yes, it has been much, much steeper than any normal decline curve. But there are a couple other factors in play: a. his size – I remember reading a while back (forget where) that guys over a certain height and weight suffer faster declines (Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Jim Rice) b) Joint injuries, which can derail a normal career path very quickly, and c) PEDs – and while I’m absolutely not accusing Papi, it is a possibility that has to be considered given the context of the times.

    Mark - YF May 21, 2009, 11:46 am
  • and c) PEDs – and while I’m absolutely not accusing Papi, it is a possibility that has to be considered given the context of the times.
    It’s my biggest fear. I don’t think he did, but he certainly fits the mold.

    Atheose May 21, 2009, 11:56 am
  • Thanks Mark. That’s exactly my point (Paul, see the “if” in that quote). For instance, the Sox have four very good DH’s now, not counting Ortiz (Youkilis, Bay, Drew, Lowell), if their goal is to use the position flexibly. And if they signed a guy like Dunn (who’s making less than Ortiz) they would have been perfectly covered. The Sox don’t need another DH – they need a 1B/OF who can hit .850 OPS. That’s a convenient number I “chose” because it is typically around the average DH. But treating it as some fixed line is myopic exactly because most teams don’t have a given DH. Heck, old friend Kevin Millar is at just about that production being used properly in a platoon.

    Rob May 21, 2009, 12:11 pm
  • > but he certainly fits the mold.
    By “mold” you mean A) a MLB player, or B) Latino (and that’s a stretch), or C) Both? Because otherwise, to do this by numbers is a futile exercise.

    attackgerbil May 21, 2009, 1:40 pm
  • Thank you, AG. So far the PED “mold” includes already-superstar players who broke out in their 30s (Bonds and Clemens), borderline-superstar players who saw massive jumps in their power totals (McGwire and Canseco), superstar players who were amazingly consistent throughout their careers (Ramirez and Rodriguez), fringe players trying to hang on to a job (Manny Alexander), star players with no discernable change in numbers (Roberts and Pettitte) and, yes, superstar players who experienced rapid declines in their mid 30s (Vaughn).
    As for the DH’s role in roster flexibility, I think there are pros and cons to both approaches. Having a full-time DH kills you if it’s not a consistent producer, something the Sox obviously never really had a problem with under the Epstein regime until last year. But it’s equally hard for me to praise a system that requires, say, Jorge Posada to play DH because he needs a rest. It keeps his bat in the lineup, yes, but it also replaces Hideki Matsui with Jose Molina (or whoever the Yankees have catching now). Similarly, who’s playing third if A-Rod is the DH? Again, great that his bat is in the lineup, but the falloff between him and Angel Berroa is massive. You’re just shifting the suckitude away from the DH spot (the Sox’ hopefully short-lived problem), but it’s still in the lineup. It’s just not as noticeable because it’s not your full-time DH.
    In the Yankees’ system (or the system of any team looking to use DH as a convalescence ward) you need a truly deep bench. That’s what makes Nick Swisher/Xavier Nady so valuable once Nady returns.
    Swisher is what makes it work, and even then, only if you’re looking to spell Damon or Teixeira for a game or two. He does nothing to help the A-Rod or Posada (or Jeter) situations.
    Even so, Swisher is a million times more valuable than Adam Dunn, who is a DH who happens to play the field. He can’t play first, and he can’t play left. The fact that he is used there doesn’t change that. Dunn would be an offensive upgrade over Ortiz, but he would be so bad in the field — worse than Bay, who isn’t great to begin with, and so much worse than Youkilis at first that even the improvement of Lowell to Youks at third wouldn’t make up for it — that his value over a normal-but-diminished Ortiz would be a wash.

    Paul SF May 21, 2009, 2:06 pm
  • worse than Bay, who isn’t great to begin with
    Hey! I was with you until you dissed Bay.

    rootbeerfloat May 21, 2009, 2:43 pm
  • The collapse in ’06 made him worry so much he began having chest pains
    Is this true? Was that the diagnosis? Ortiz SAID it was stress, but how do we know? He was diagnosed (undisclosed) and medicated (undisclosed), how can we be sure it was just “stress”? Seems like we don’t actually know what caused his chest pains, to assume that it was just stress is as silly as presuming it was steroid-related. We simply can’t know what caused his problems.
    http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/2006/09/ortiz_talks_abo.html

    SF May 21, 2009, 2:54 pm
  • The comparison with the Sox is much simpler though since Ortiz is the one that needs replacing. So this year Dunn would have been a DH who could occasionally played the field (whereas NL team seems to trust his glove just fine). But if he had to spend time at 1B or in the OF he’s much, much better than the alternatives (Bailey, Carter, Baldelli, Kotsay) even assuming they’re all plus gloves (which they’re not). Otherwise, he’s just out there for spots starts. Dunn would have been insurance against Ortiz and Lowell or both (it’s a long season).
    Who said I was praising the Yankee system? Up until last year Giambi played the DH role and after they had glove-first scrubs for years at 1B. Now they have an eight-year contract at 1B with many players in the coming years needing to spend time at 1B/DH. They have very little flexibility. Because of the difference between Youkilis and Ortiz, the Sox are in very good shaping approaching the trade and free agent markets.
    And Nady? He’s not a starter on a championship team. The Yankees were lucky this year that he got hurt so they backed into what Swisher could do. Dunn was have also helped them.

    Rob May 21, 2009, 3:02 pm
  • > Latino
    I need to make a clarification: I raised that issue because of the players who have tested positive for the usage of banned substances, the majority are of Latin-American descent. However, I DO NOT think that it is a reasonable generalization, and should have been more careful in my phrasing. The only generalization I’m okay with is “ballplayer.”

    attackgerbil May 21, 2009, 3:06 pm
  • You hit it dead-on with A), AG. He’s a ballplayer.

    Atheose May 21, 2009, 3:20 pm
  • over at fangraphs (excellent resource, BTW), they’ve posted when things become statistically relevant. Here’s what they come up with in terms of PA:
    50 PA: Swing %
    100 PA: Contact Rate
    150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA
    200 PA: Walk Rate, Groundball Rate, GB/FB
    250 PA: Flyball Rate
    300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB
    500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate
    550 PA: ISO
    so Papi has passed some “small sample size” thresholds, and not some others…. thought it was applicable.
    oh, and to whomever was comparing fenway and Yankee sadia: “Yankee stadium a home run index of 151.25, well ahead of the number two park, Chase Field at 140.00”

    dw (sf) May 22, 2009, 10:42 am

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