Courtesy the fine bloggers at Fangraphs, we have this little graph:
That's the distance of each David Ortz fly ball this season, based on GameDay data points entering yesterday's game (where Ortiz launched a 412-foot blast to dead center field). The straight line is Ortiz's 2008 average, and the wavy line is a rolling 2009 average. It shows that not only are Ortiz's home runs flying farther, so are the balls that aren't getting over the fence.
In fact, Ortiz is averaging 300 feet per fly ball this month — an average right in line with the 291-foot average he posted in his last true Ortizian season, 2007.
As Dave Allen, who authored this study, notes:
This is a small sample, but things look qualitatively different for Ortiz since the end of May, an encouraging sign for him and the Red Sox.
Clearly, David Ortiz is back on steroids. It's the only logical answer, right?
The answer surely can't be what Dave Cameron, in a post entitled "Let's Stop Burying the Living," describes:
We haven’t figured out what numbers show that a player is truly washed up. We haven’t figured out what it looks like when that happens. We haven’t figured out how to combine scouting and statistical analysis to give us a warning before a player heads off the cliff. All we’ve figured out is how to guess wrong a lot. Young player struggle, old players struggle, middle age players struggle, and we don’t have any good way of figuring out why in most cases. Just because a player experiences a drop in performance, and is old, does not mean that age related decline is the reason for the performance. More often than not, it’s just bad luck.
Let’s stop pretending that we can identify players who have “just lost it” overnight. Too often, they find it again the next morning.