May 15, 2009

Ortiz Will Get Tonight Off

David Ortiz, after yesterday's game:
I'm sorry guys, I don't feel like talking now. Just put down, "Papi stinks."
At the plate:
 1st: K, man on second, 2nd out
3rd: L9, man on second, 1st out
4th: K, bases loaded, 3rd out
6th: K, man on second, 3rd out
8th: F7, men on first/third, 3rd out
10th: 3U, man on second, 3rd out
12th: 2-3, bases loaded, 3rd out
It was Ortiz's worst day in a Red Sox uniform. One hard-hit ball in seven trips to the plate, 12 men left on base (tying a franchise record for futility), an inning-ending out in each of his last five at-bats. When the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the 12th, I wished we could skip Flo's spot in the order and have Bay bat after Pedroia. I never thought I'd say that, but he looked defeated even before he stepped into the batters box.

Ortiz (.208/.318/.300) will get the night off as Boston plays in Seattle; his only other day off this year was on May 7. But then what? In addition to any troubles with his swing or pitch recognition, Ortiz's emotional state is also shot. Even if the Red Sox decide to DL him -- he did get hit on the wrist the other day -- that is simply another pause button to postpone dealing with this problem.

Ortiz showed some signs of live in a nine-game stretch in late April, when he hit .316 (but with zero walks). And while he is walking more in May, his batting and slugging averages are worse this month than in April. No matter how much regular playing time the Red Sox decide to give him to get back on track, he cannot continue to hit #3.

Say the Red Sox move him to #5 in the order (where he spent most of his time in 2003), and nothing changes for another month? I cannot see them releasing or trading him. Do they go with a platoon at DH, giving Youkilis, Drew, Kotsay, Lowell, etc. an occasional day-off -- and use a roster spot for a part-time, DH-only player? Do they give some DH time to Carter and Bailey? Do they look for a bat outside the organization?

The best solution would be if Ortiz can start hitting again -- even a repeat of 2008 would be welcome -- but judging from both his performance and body language over the past few days, he's got a long way to go.

I guess we'll take this one game at a time. And David Ortiz will watch tonight's contest from the bench.


laura k said...

"I'm sorry guys, I don't feel like talking now. Just put down, "Papi stinks.""

This is so sad! I don't know if I've ever felt this sorry for someone in a slump.

mattymatty said...

It definitely sounds like Big Papi could use a day (or two) off. I hope he's able to get some confidence and some production going, otherwise, as Allan hinted, the Sox may have a tough decision to make and huge hole to fill.

Edward Lee said...

Ortiz shouldn't be batting any higher than 7th until he gets everything sorted out. Eff the LRLRL lineup.

allan said...

7th runs the very high risk of being perceived as a humiliation, a la Torre demoting Slappy to 8th in a playoff game.

Get him out of the 3 hole, but put him somewhere he has been before. It seems like his attitude, which seemed to be looking up, has cratered. No need to dump more shit on him.

If he keeps sucking, I fear the WEEI idiots in the Fenway crowd next week.

9casey said...

let him play first base for a game or 2 , while Yook is out, keep in the game and not in the dugout sulking, and feeling sorry for himself....

Anonymous said...

Now I'm starting to wonder if Papi's isn't going to have a nice ending to his career numbers wise. Hope I'm wrong

FenFan said...

What I find disheartening is that his OBP (.318) is higher than his SLG (.300) - not what have come to expect from Big Papi. I wasn't worried after a sub-par April but the slump has continued into May and, after seeing that quote direct from him, I'm beginning to wonder if even a move in the order would make a difference.

... and yes, moving him to 7th would be a major faux pas on Tito's part.

Unknown said...

I say put him 5th ... 7th would be too insulting (as has been pointed out). The goal is to get him back on track, not make him feel totally worthless.

When Youk gets back ... it should be

3. Youk
4. Bay
5. Ortiz

allan said...

I maintain that Tiz is not cooked. He hit three dongs and slugged .500 in 16 spring training games.

In late February, we read he dented Luis Tiant's SUV, which was parked some 500 feet from the plate. Fans have reported him hitting mega-bombs in BP (though there are also reports of no BP bombs some nights).

He's got plenty of problems, but he did not lose his power overnight.

Anonymous said...

I understand what Francona is going by sticking with Ortiz, and to an extent I approve. But right now keeping Ortiz in the lineup isn't just hurting the team; it's hurting Ortiz. The poor guy is just all wrapped around the axle.

Put him on the DL. His wrist was hurt the other night when he got hit. Tito, tell him to _go fishing_ for a week. Or two. Don't think about baseball. Get his head clear. Then do two or three rehab starts down in Pawtucket after he's had a couple weeks off. Then, if he's feeling good, put him back in the three-hole and see how he does.

Meanwhile, DH Lugo until he gets his legs (and glove, such as it is) back.

GK said...

Ortiz's quote,below, from a Globe articletthat tells me that his mental makeup is messed up.

"People don't know," Ortiz said. "Sometimes they think we just come here to play baseball and that's it. We're human beings like everyone else. We have things to worry about. Sometimes that gets in the way. It's hard to have that free open mind you need to play this game. There's no way you can play this game with a busy mind. No way.

"Physically I am better than ever. I have no troubles physically. But sometimes this game gets in your head and you kind of get depressed for a minute. It can be for the situation you're dealing with that won't let you focus and people have no idea about that."

Red Sox Monster said...

I, too, say drop him to No. 5. How about this?

1. Ellsbury
2. Pedroia
3. JayRayBay
4. Youk
5. Ortiz
6. Lowell
7. Drew
8. Varitek
9. Lugo

The down side is that the Sox will have three righties in the 2 through 4 holes. But a lot of folks were also opposed to Mike Lowell moving up in the lineup behind Manny in 2007, and that worked out just fine. Sometimes, you roll with what you have.

Red Sox Monster said...

Also, I agree on the spring training observation with Ortiz. It's mechanics and mindset, not inability.

allan said...

RSM: For now, I feel like switching Drew and Ellsbury in that lineup.

Unknown said...

I still think he'll be fine, but it's getting harder to believe this is just a slump.

allan said...

The "he's stopped taking certain (ahem) supplements" argument, which must be out there in places I do not visit, should not affect his ability (though maybe mentally) to actually get his bat on certain pitches.

He's up there like one of us, with no clue what is coming and no idea how to hit it anyway.

The lack of a dong clearly bothered him more than it should have and it seems to have snowballed far beyond that now.

nixon33 said...

Papi, if you need a drinking partner thru yr woes, I'm yr man, man.

andy said...

To be mean, I said Papi is the only guy who can steal first, this is for every loop single.

9Casey said it best, put him in the game defensively. He needs to get into the Flo of things and playing some 1B will do the trick. If it does not fix things then they can start looking at taking him out of the lineup. Days off just give him more time to stew. He needs balls being hit at his face to wake him up.

Patrick said...

Papi's 0fer made it to the front page of yahoo. It really doesn't belong there. Shame on them.

Edward Lee said...

7th runs the very high risk of being perceived as a humiliation, a la Torre demoting Slappy to 8th in a playoff game.Torre also dropped Giambi from 3rd to 7th for 2003 ALCS Game 7. Didn't seem to bother him none.

Amy said...

I just feel so sorry for him. Does the team have a therapist to deal with these issues? This does seem to be at least partially a psychological problem, although I do wonder whether his wrist is back to what it was before last year's injury. I am not sure sitting out a game here and there will help if the issue is mental, not physical.

Anyone who has ever had any kind of performance anxiety knows what it is like to try and perform under pressure, watching yourself and being watched by others.

(OK, I can almost hear Andy having some kind of off-color response to that one!)

Unknown said...

Looking at stats from Papi's whole career and comparing them to 2009, the stats that stand out to the most me are those relating to pulling the ball and hitting to the opposite field. This season, he's pulling the ball 18% of the time and hitting it to the opposite field 25% of the time. For his career he pulls the ball 33% of the time and hits to the opposite field 19% of the time. In addition, when he does pull the ball or hit it up the middle, he's doing far worse than he has for most of his career. Oddly enough, he's actually hitting to the opposite field better than during the majority of his career.

                 2009 Career
Pulled AVG .263 .438
Pulled SLG .421 .956

Middle AVG .214 .316
Middle SLG .286 .580

Opp Fld AVG .400 .343
Opp Fld SLG .600 .544

I'm not a statistician or a hitting coach, so I can't guarantee this, but I would think that not being able to pull the ball well while still being able to hit well to the opposite field (and pulling the ball at a lower rate than usual) would indicate a decrease in bat speed: the ball is getting farther across the plate than usual before the bat gets to it, thus the ability to pull the ball is reduced. His strikeout rate is still in line with his career average (23% this season vs 21% career), so he's still seeing the ball fine, he just hasn't been doing much when he makes contact.

The one other number that stands out to me is his infield popup percentage: 16% in 2009, 17% in 2008, while only 7 or 8% for all of the other years he's played with the Sox. I don't know if his difficulty pulling the ball is the only thing responsible for this, but it certainly can't be helping.

I'm not quite sure how exactly you would go about trying to fix this problem, but I'm reasonably confident that it is the problem - or at least part of the problem.

Data links:

Career Hit Location Splits2009 Hit Location SplitsInfield popup and strikeout rates (Scroll to the Ratio Batting section)

Wow...I have way too much time on my hands.

Papi, we're all pulling for you (pun may or may not be intended).

Rob said...

I've always said I'd like to see him spray the ball more to all fields. Yes the majority will always be pulling but if he can go the other way enough for teams to think about putting a guy back on the left side and easing up on the overshift it should help him out. Right now he looks where he hits and doesn't see a way to get a hit.

Since he does pull the ball so much and they play with such an obvious overshift, pitchers pitch to him up and in to jam him and are also not afraid to go outside on him before he'll just swing in front of it and top it to the right side of the infield.

To me this is not a matter of finding a spark to get him to hit home runs - it's about going back to the fundamentals of his swing and his mindset when he gets to the plate. Get him to stay back on the ball and use more of the field. The infield alignment will look a little more normal and the pitchers will have to pitch to him differently again.

Rebel against the scouting report. Unfortunately that would also be rebelling on all of the things that made him so successful for those big years.

Rob said...

Funny timing on my comment and Kevin's comment, and it leads me to wonder if maybe the shift is getting to him and he's trying to go the opposite way and it's just not working out for him.

Amy said...

I tend to agree with Kevin. I think he is pulling the ball late because of swinging late and less powerfully. And those dribbles in the infield are certainly not intentional. Poor Papi.

Amy said...

Pulling the ball LESS is what I meant.