Hey, go back to 1891 and get 39-year-old Papi Anson also leading the league in RBI! (Don’t call him that to his face, though.)
[David] Ortiz leads the major leagues in RBIs on a team that ranks last in the American League and 24th in the majors in runs scored. He’s driven in 91 of the team’s 475 runs (19.2 percent), the highest percentage of any team’s runs driven in by a single player in the big leagues. He’s hit 28 of the team’s 92 homers (30.4 percent), accounting for the second-highest percentage of a team’s homers…
Since 1901, there have been 47 players with 500 or more plate appearances in their age 39 season. Of those, 31 have had an OPS+ of 100 or better, topped by Barry Bonds’ 263, followed by Ted Williams’ 179; 15 of those players have had an OPS+ of 120 or better…
based on the raw numbers… the Sox face something like a 37 percent decreased likelihood that Ortiz will be able to reach 500 plate appearances next season as a 39-year-old.
But if he does remain on the field, there appears to be a superstar survival effect, where roughly two out of every three players are at least league average producers at each of these ages, and interestingly, a slightly increasing percentage of these players produce at an elite level suggested by an OPS+ of 120 or greater.
So the idea of a 39-year-old David Ortiz anchoring a lineup isn’t unprecedented. But for a Red Sox team that will be trying to dig out from the wreckage of a dismal 2014 season, knowing that there have only been 15 players in the last 114 years to deliver some semblance of the health and production that they hope for from Ortiz represents a daunting reality, at a time when the lineup has no obvious ability to support the veteran from being anything less than a force.
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