Ortiz hiiting fastballs like 2007
posted at 5/18/2011 1:53 PM EDT
Is the David Ortiz
of old back? A look at his performance against fastballs suggests that he might be in store for his best season since 2007.
Back in 2007, Ortiz was still enjoying his prime. That was before his prolonged April slumps or PED accusations. Perhaps no one had more confidence at the plate. He hit a career-high .332 and finished fourth in the MVP voting.
That was also before he stopped hitting fastballs. You simply couldn’t throw Ortiz a heater in 2007. He hit .371 on at-bats ending in a fastball according to Inside Edge. Only Magglio Ordonez
(.388) and Ichiro Suzuki
(.378) were better.
Age, injury and tumult took a toll in the years ahead. That hitter, who crushed any mistake and dared the pitcher to give him a fastball to hit, wasn’t consistently there. His batting average on fastballs bottomed out at .236 in 2009. In 2010, he brought it back up to .295, but even then he was swinging and missing more than ever.
It seemed clear that Ortiz’s bat has slowed. He was no longer an equal match for the best fastballs in the game.
Well, so far this season, Ortiz has been his old self again. He’s hitting .348 on at-bats ending in a fastball, including five of his seven home runs. His swing and miss percentage has dropped to 15.5, right around the 14.8 percent that he missed on fastballs in 2007.
Not all fastballs are created equal, but Ortiz is still slugging as the velocity increases. On pitches 93 mph or faster, he’s hitting .391. Two years ago that was just .185.
Less than two months into the season, the sample size is still awfully small. But the trend is clear: Ortiz is getting around on fastballs in a way that resembles his prime.
His success is partly tied to getting favorable counts that will force the pitcher to throw a fastball. Ortiz has a .480 batting average in hitters’ counts this season compared to .321 in each of the previous two seasons.
Ortiz has also dramatically reduced his strikeouts. Last season, he finished fourth in the AL with 145 strikeouts. This season, his strikeout rate has been cut in half, and he’s tied for ninth on the Red Sox with 20 strikeouts.
Ortiz is on pace to hit .287 with 27 home runs. That’s about on par with his 2010 season (.270 BA, 32 HR). But those similarities come with one caveat: Ortiz hasn’t necessarily heated up yet (He hit 10 homers in a red-hot May last season).
With the way he’s hitting fastballs, that just might be a matter of time.