David Ortiz’s Plate Discipline Decline

As the Red Sox stocked up on defensive players and pitching this winter a common question has been, “Do the Sox have enough offense to beat the Yankees?” As we have talked about here, this question is wrongheaded. Teams do not need a baseline level of offense (or defense or pitching). They simply need to score more runs then they give up. A run saved is just as valuable as a run scored.

That is not to say that the Red Sox would not like to score a ton of runs. And one place they will hope to get more production from this year is the DH and David Ortiz. Ortiz had a down year in 2009: a wRC+ of 104 just doesn’t cut it from a DH. People have focused on Ortiz’s power drop, but equally troubling were his lowest walk rate since 2004 and highest strikeout rate since 1998. Those lead to his pedestrian .332 OBP, taking away a huge chunk of his offensive value.

The problem is that Ortiz has been swinging at an increasing percentage of pitches out of the zone. In 2004 he swung at a very low 15.2% of such pitches. But it has increased every year since to 22.6% in 2009. (Average is 25%, so he is still better than average but closing in). Using the swing and contact contours from my Marco Scutaro post we can see where those extra swings have been.

This shows a big increase to swing rate on up-and-in pitches. Although he made slightly more contact on these pitches in 2009 than 2007-2008, these are still pitches that he whiffs at a high rate. In addition, the region where he makes contact 90% or more of the time was much smaller in 2009. Swinging at more pitches out of the zone (up-and-in pitches) and making less contact on pitches in the heart of the plate resulted in Ortiz’s poorer strikeout and walk numbers.



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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


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Dirty Water
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Dirty Water

Aw, hell; the man is an icon. Let him grow old in peace.

That is all.

West
Guest
West

No, he’s a poster boy for the steroid era.

B N
Guest
B N

Actually, if you read the info- the only thing we know for sure is that he at least tested positive for a banned substance on the 2003 preliminary results. The ones where they did not ask players to discontinue supplements.

So then, we know for sure he was at least taking a supplement that tests positive as a banned substance (or includes a substance that was going to be banned). Which is what David Ortiz admitted to. So if he’s actually honest, that’s the story.

If we want to call David Ortiz a liar, which is understandable given that plenty of people have lied about juicing, then we can open up the possibility that he tested positive on the 2nd round of screening and that the second positive was a steroid. By the numbers, we know there were about 105 failed tests and about 80 of those were confirmed in the follow-ups. So it’s at least likely, if we’re willing to assume Ortiz is a liar.

On the other hand, unlike every other player outed, the MLB stepped up and made this statement: “I’m not in a position to believe or disbelieve. I accept what he says,” Bob DuPuy (baseball’s president and chief operating officer). Their stance on Ortiz was quite different than A-Rod and others to which it was basically a “no comment” situation.

So yes, you may be right about him being the poster boy of the steroid era. He’s a player who is suspected of using steroids under unclear evidence which can never be confirmed or disconfirmed. Which is ultimately the same place where most of the players from that era are stuck.

Dirty Water
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Dirty Water

Wake up, BN. West was just goading me into ‘who took more steroids, the Sox or MFY’ type thrill ride. Serious; no one outside of the Bronx believes that Papi is anything but a squeaky clean ICON for the ages.

You go, Papi. Money year.

Sandy Kazmir
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Sandy Kazmir

And no one outside of dumb Red Sox fans refers to the team as “MFY”. FWIW, I’m a Rays fan and have felt my Red Sox hatred easily outpace that of the Yankees due to uppity Bahstan fans everywhere.

Dirty Water
Guest
Dirty Water

Sandy, you’re trashing my right to free acronyms while coming across as a Nazi. Please stop.

Not a TB hater. Luv em and wish them income.

B N
Guest
B N

No way! A rare Tampa Bay fan sighting! Stop the presses! Quickly, get some cameras in here before he moves along! ;) Seriously though, I have no beef with Tampa Bay- though I am wary of their existence because they’re so under the radar. I mean… the best trick the Rays ever pulled was convincing everyone that they didn’t exist last year.

And no offense, Dirty Water and Sandy, but I detest acronyms in all their forms. Unless you’re making a chart or something, there’s no need for them.

Steve
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Steve

Serious; no one outside of the Bronx believes that Papi is anything but a squeaky clean ICON for the ages.

Serious: this might be the most hilariously delusional sentence ever posted on this site. Just breath-taking.

Trust me, no one outside of Boston actually believes Ortiz is clean. Didn’t really help that Manny got caught twice.

alskor
Guest
alskor

Well, apparently no one outside of Boston is aware that Manny and David Ortiz – not close friends. They talk the talk, but Ortiz criticized Manny a number of times. They argued about batting order. They didn’t hang out. Ortiz went back to the Dominican in the offseason while Manny never goes there. NOT. CLOSE. FRIENDS.

Its just assumed they were because they were the two big bats in the lineup. Do we assume Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome were best buddies…?

Ortiz always talked positive about him for the most part, but he’s that way with EVERYBODY.

West
Guest
West

Can I propose a ban for anyone that uses the word “hater” on this site?

alskor
Guest
alskor

Good idea. Let’s throw it on the docket right after we ban the people who use “poster boy” and make steroid accusations (again, we have zero evidence that is what Ortiz tested positive for).

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