General Red Sox

The Abyss

David Ortiz is not alone.

Through several days of discussion about Big Papi's awful season (short may it last), the statement has been made several times, including by me, that he has fallen apart in an unprecedented manner. It's true in a sense: No big-time slugger has collapsed to this extent in one season, though Jimmie Foxx came awfully close.

But there are at least two examples that we've been overlooking, and they both are intricately related to the Red Sox:

  • Player A, age 32: .264/.369/.507, 123 OPS+
  • Player A, age 33: .198/.288/.322, 56 OPS+
  • Player B, age 30: .293/.365/.505, 127 OPS+
  • Player B, age 31: .236/.298/.360, 77 OPS+
  • Player C, age 29: .287/.374/.481, 131 OPS+
  • Player C, age 30: .207/.265/.291, 47 OPS+

Player A, of course, is Ortiz himself, his numbers inching higher as maybe, just maybe, he's begun putting it back together.

Player B is Mike Lowell, whose inexplicable disappearance in 2005 allowed the Red Sox to acquire Josh Beckett. He still has no explanation for what happened that season. Player C is Tony Clark, who fell even further than either Lowell or Ortiz in 2002, his lone season for the Red Sox.

Granted, Lowell and Clark were both younger than Ortiz is now — and Clark's post-30 career arc is bizarre, to say the least — but here is what they produced in the seasons after their descent into the abyss. A reason for some long-term hope, perhaps:

  • Lowell, 2006: .284/.339/.475, 104 OPS+
  • Lowell, 2007: .324/.378/.501, 124 OPS+
  • Clark, 2003: .232/.300/.472, 100 OPS+
  • Clark, 2004: .221/.297/.458, 95 OPS+
  • Clark, 2005: .304/.366/.636, 154 OPS+

One reply on “The Abyss”

I was motivated to do a similar exercise when someone suggested that David’s collapse was to be expected from a large player primarily employed as a DH. The two comparables that were suggested were Mo Vaughn and Cecil Fielder, both of whose careers ended precipitously, with little warning. So I checked out the comparisons by age available at Fangraphs. Neither these two nor Clark & Lowell ( come at all close to a trajectory like Papi’s. The sad thing is the one comparison that does look eerily like David’s past three years is Mark McGwire at age 33 and Sammy Sosa at 37.

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