Monday, October 14, 2013


The scatter chart does not lie: David Ortiz has just had a remarkable
Age-37 season...
David Ortiz' galvanizing grand slam last night in Game 2 of the ALCS reminds us that his has been a storied, late-blooming career since the Red Sox quietly plucked him off the slag heap during the 2002-03 off-season.

It was the defining moment of what we like to call the "EJE" (the "Epstein-James Era"), which resulted in a stone miracle in 2004 (assisted mightily by Ortiz' first 40+ homer season) and a delirious repeat in 2007 (sparked by what both "old sabermetrics"--OPS+--and "new sabermetrics"--WAR--regard as Big Papi's best season).

But is it a career that's worthy of the Hall of Fame? Response to such a question will be mixed. Ortiz has had that mostly terrific 11-year run with the Sox (marred a bit by a downturn in 2008-09), which has produced 373 HRs and a 148 OPS+.

For those who like their counting stats, Ortiz produced his seventh 30+ HR season and his seventh 100+ RBI year in 2013 at the age of 37. After several single-year contracts following his downturn, Ortiz will be back with the Sox in 2014, in the second year of a two-season deal.

Let's talk some about that "age-37" thing. Ortiz had just a tremendous year this season, quietly and very consistently anchoring the Red Sox offense. As the chart at right shows, Ortiz' 160 OPS+ for his age-37 season is in very select company: it ranks sixth overall.

Of the other 19 hitters in the Age-27 Top 20, thirteen are already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Two more (Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro) would also be in the Hall save for the ongoing steroids imbroglio. His opposite-handed DH compatriot, Edgar Martinez, is also here on the list at #7, right under Ortiz: Edgar is slowly working his way up the BBWAA ballots and might yet make it through the glut of candidates before his 15 years are up. (It's a delightful surprise, in fact, to see that Edgar is the RBI leader amongst age-37 performers.)

In short, anyone on this particular list was a darned good hitter and will not be greeted with a chorus of catcalls when his name is mentioned in connection with the Hall. Ortiz is near the top of the list, with only Bonds and four inner-circle Hall of Famers (Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Tris Speaker) ahead of him.

Is that fact, by itself, enough to get Big Papi into the Hall? Probably not, but there's more to consider. We'll get back to all that a bit later in the off-season...stay tuned.

[UPDATE: What a pity...Big P had a hit tonight as the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the ALCS with a 4-3 win over the Tigers. That makes it a total of two in the series thus would have been something if his grand salami had proved to be his only hit. Detroit should be wary: of Papi's dozen lifetime grand slam homers (including the one in this series), all but one have come at Fenway Park...the scene for Game 6 (and, maybe, Game 7).]