Sunday, August 2, 2009

Big Papi in midst of big slide

It was 2 1/2 months ago that David Ortiz went a woeful 0-for-7 in a 12-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the worst game of his worst season as a professional baseball player. It was minutes after that game that he uttered the memorable line, "Just put down, 'Papi stinks.'" It was less than two weeks later that Terry Francona dropped him out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order for the first time in almost exactly four years. It was as bad as it could possibly get.

Well, it's that bad again. David Ortiz went 0-for-5 on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles and left an astounding 10 runners on base:
* He popped to shallow left field with the bases loaded in the first;
* He drew a walk with the bases loaded in the second;
* He lined out to second with two on in the fourth;
* He rolled into a double play with the bases loaded in the sixth;
* He grounded out to first with a runner on second in the eighth.

He had a chance to drive home 13 runs in the game -- 18 if you include the possibility of home runs -- and he drove in just one. (The double play did plate a run, but if you're going to argue that the double play was a productive at-bat is grasping at straws.)

Now that Victor Martinez is in the fold and ready to rake, it's again time to wonder if David Ortiz might best serve the Red Sox by playing only against righthanded pitchers -- and, even then, maybe not against all righthanded pitchers. The only problem is that Martinez, too, has had to endure a pretty epic slump through the month of July.

Consider these numbers:

* Ortiz this July: .247/.306/.539
* Ortiz in July in his career: .314/.410/.617
(He has no month in which he has a higher batting average, on-base percentage or slugging percentage than in July.)
* Ortiz in August in his career: .264/.371/.531
* Ortiz in September in his career: .284/.381/.571

* Victor Martinez this July: .175/.280/.250
* Martinez in July in his career: .274/.350/.413
(Only May, historically, has been a worse month for Martinez.)
* Martinez in August in his career: .316/.390/.484
* Martinez in September in his career: .310/.392/.459

Ortiz just OBP'ed .306 in a month in which he normally OBP's over .400, and he normally sees his numbers fall across the board as the calendar turns to August and September.

Martinez, on the other hand, scuffled through July the way he normally scuffled through July -- and his five-hit day on Sunday might just be an indication that he's ready to get hot in August the way he normally gets hot in August.

Here's one more set of numbers for you:

Mike Lowell's Ultimate Zone Rating: minus-9.7
Mike Lowell's Fielding Bible Plus-Minus: minus-21
Mike Lowell at the plate since his DL stint: .415/.500/.694

Lowell has been smoking the ball at the plate. He's also shown almost zero range at third base. One example: With one out and runners on first and second in Sunday's third inning, Clay Buchholz induced a slow ground ball between shortstop and third base. Lowell lunged for it but never got his glove on the ball. Had he made the plate, he might have turned an inning-ending double play -- and Buchholz would have escaped without allowing the six third-inning runs about which Red Sox fans will be talking on Monday morning.

But Lowell didn't reach it. The statistics above demonstrate why: His hip injury has robbed him of almost all of his range. Does that sound like a designated hitter to anyone else?

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