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Monday, August 18, 2014

Speier: Are Red Sox too dependent on David Ortiz?

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.

 

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:02 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: alex speier, david ortiz, red sox, sabermetrics

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   1. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 18, 2014 at 06:01 PM (#4774045)
What a weird question. They're not depending on anyone. They'd be in last place if I replaced him, too.
   2. SteveF Posted: August 18, 2014 at 06:08 PM (#4774050)
They'd be in laster place.
   3. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 18, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4774082)
Still the world champs! Woohoo!
   4. Walt Davis Posted: August 18, 2014 at 09:55 PM (#4774168)
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.

Selection bias. Being in the lineup doesn't lead to better production, better production leads to more lineup time. If Ortiz is healthy and productive, he'll get 500+ PA. If either is not the case, he likely won't ... unless they're out of the race and he's chasing a milestone.

Thing is he really needs to produce with the bat. Cue debate on the DH positional adjustment but bWAR has him at average this year with his 132 OPS+ and -4 baserunning. Fangraphs is a bit crueler.

Push the useful cutoff up to a 120 OPS+ and you're down to 15 39-year-olds. Still I'd imagine the Red Sox would be perfectly content with the age 39 seasons of Frank Thomas (125), Galarraga (123), Winfield (120), Parker (118), Da Evans (116) or even CDavis (108) all of whom seem reasonable comps for Ortiz at this stage.
   5. bjhanke Posted: August 19, 2014 at 02:10 AM (#4774282)
Walt's selection bias is, of course, spot on, but it does, combined with his list of players, lead to a different issue, which Walt mentions in paragraph 3. By age 39, all of the players on Walt's list were either DHs or 1Bs of questionable defensive value, although some of them had been much more mobile earlier in their lives. This leads to the question of whether it's possible to have enough value to be comparable to Papi if you're 39 years old and play a defensive position that involves a lot of running. I checked Ted Williams, who certainly seemed to be the best candidate, and Ted was still playing at that level and was still playing LF. However, he also hadn't played 140 games for years. Stan Musial was pretty much the same, although even Stan was not quite Ted as a a hitter. By age 39, Stan was still a reasonably competent LF, who did not need to be moved to 1B, but his bat had slipped a little, and he was playing about 120 games a year. I am interested in this because I think there should be a massive adjustment for playing DH when you are too old to play the field any more. If you try to compare players across time, you have to adjust for that just like you have to adjust for offensive context. I think you can make a good case that the reason we have more of these guys now that baseball used to have is mostly down to the DH. Although, Ortiz was a MUCH better defensive 1B in the WS last year than I had ever dreamed he would be. I thought the Sox might have to bench him to get Napoli's glove in the infield. Didn't happen. - Brock Hanke
   6. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 07:44 AM (#4774305)
This leads to the question of whether it's possible to have enough value to be comparable to Papi if you're 39 years old and play a defensive position that involves a lot of running.


Jeter at 38 had pretty much the same value as Ortiz this year. Jeter's defense obviously is not based on running, but he is at SS. Galarraga was a plus defender at 1st, Evans seemed to do pretty well there also, Winfield was still playing in the outfield, Thomas, Parker and Davis obviously did benefit from the DH, although Thomas would have been a 1bman on someone's team regardless of (non-segregated) era. Unless you have more players in mind, I think it's a bit premature to further downgrade DH's. There are lots of reasons players may be able to perform better at 39 in today's game, sure the DH is probably one of them, but you still need to be a great hitter to be able to hit like Ortiz.
   7. AROM Posted: August 19, 2014 at 09:20 AM (#4774329)
For his career Ortiz has 267 games at first, 2089 innings, and a TZ of -7, DRS of -5, UZR of -4. He's never been a disaster, just a tick below average. I don't buy the explanation that his health prevents him from playing the field more. If his knees were that bad there's no way he'd still be hitting at this level after so many years.

One reason he DH's is because he seems to like it, and he hits well in the role. This is rare, most players who switch to DH cannot hit at the same level they do while playing the field. If you've got a situation that is working, don't mess with it. Another is that while he's not a disaster, Red Sox have generally had pretty good fielders at DH.

   8. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:11 AM (#4774350)
One reason he DH's is because he seems to like it, and he hits well in the role. This is rare, most players who switch to DH cannot hit at the same level they do while playing the field. If you've got a situation that is working, don't mess with it. Another is that while he's not a disaster, Red Sox have generally had pretty good fielders at DH.


Exactly. His is also the rare situation in that when he finally got a full-fledged chance, it was somewhat later than most and at DH, so he probably didn't balk at getting moved off a position to DH like some others have (Bonilla, early Giambi).

If there were no DH, he'd have been a below-average defensive first baseman. He was slotted into the DH role because he accepted it, even when he became a star, he hit well there and, given his size, he was considered an injury risk. And because someone on the Sox HAD TO DH, and he was the obvious candidate. But when the Sox have played interleague or World Series road games, his mitt was trotted out with non-disastrous results (despite some horrible forecasts to the contrary).



   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4774380)
Red Sox have generally had pretty good fielders at DH.


DH defense - the new market inefficiency?
   10. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4774399)
If you assume Ortiz would have the same playing time as a 1B while putting up -4 DRS per year, that would only add about 1.5 WAR to his career total.
   11. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:26 AM (#4774455)
so much depends
upon

a big
Papi

glazed with Sam
Adams

beside the Pesky
Pole.
   12. BDC Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:48 AM (#4774492)
possible to have enough value to be comparable to Papi if you're 39 years old and play a defensive position that involves a lot of running

There have been a few 39-year-old center fielders who were still pretty good players – Willie Mays, of course, but also Steve Finley and Kenny Lofton, and long ago, Tris Speaker. How exactly they might compare to Ortiz in value is hard to say (well, it's easy to read the WAR or WAA totals, but there's always room for interpretation). Basically, a handful of superior CF did retain their value at that age.
   13. villageidiom Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4774512)
Although, Ortiz was a MUCH better defensive 1B in the WS last year than I had ever dreamed he would be.
Don't get me started again.
I don't buy the explanation that his health prevents him from playing the field more. If his knees were that bad there's no way he'd still be hitting at this level after so many years.
They were concerned about his knees in 2003. He had knee problems with the Twins in 2002. But y'know, he's a big guy, and he still has the same knees, so...
   14. BDC Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4774551)
It's reasonable that DHing has kept Ortiz healthier than 1Bing might have, though we'll never know. Guy hasn't exactly been Billy Williams in the durability department as it is.
   15. bobm Posted: August 19, 2014 at 02:25 PM (#4774670)
so much depends
upon

a big
Papi

glazed with Sam
Adams

beside the Pesky
Pole.


Ted Carlos Williams ?
   16. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 02:31 PM (#4774677)
Ted Carlos Williams ?

William Carlos Gomez
   17. Moeball Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:36 PM (#4774796)
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…


Dave Winfield (league-leading 118 RBI in 1979 for a Padres team that only scored 603 runs - that's 19.6%) says hello. He also hit 34 of the team's 93 HRs that season, good for 36.6%.

Nate Colbert's 1972 season also says howdy. A ridiculous 111 RBI on a team that only scored 452 runs (uh, that's almost 25%). Oh, and 38 HRs out of a team total of only 102 (that's good for 37.3%).

By the way, OF COURSE the Red Sox are heavily dependent on David Ortiz. Did anyone somehow not see the 2013 postseason?
   18. Srul Itza Posted: August 19, 2014 at 07:48 PM (#4774924)
The imbalance continues, with the Red Sox leading 1-0 on a Big Papi home run.

That is No. 29 on the season, and career home run 460. There was some debate here about whether Ortiz would make it to 500 Home Runs before he retires. I am going to bet that he makes it.

I am also going to bet that, despite the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by SDCNs and saber-nazis, and the "Dominican Milk Shake" brigade, that he makes the HOF.

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