The conversation swirling around the Boston Red Sox in the past week has involved David Ortiz and where the team would be without his offense in 2014. With 30 home runs and 93 RBI, he’s accounted for a near-historical amount of the offensive output for Boston, who ranks last in the American League in a number of offensive categories. Meanwhile, Ortiz ranks near the top of the AL in a number of offensive categories.
The gaudy stats that have been padded by Ortiz’s latest hot streak has brought upon the false notion that the 38-year-old slugger should be handed the AL MVP outright given he’s carried the team to a 56-70 record.
Forgotten have been the struggles that hamstrung the first half of Ortiz’s 2014 campaign, his lack of production in the middle of the order contributing as much to the offensive anemia as the weak outfield corps. From May 15 to June 17, a span of 32 games, he hit just .171 with a .593 OPS and six extra-base hits.
Through June 17, he was hitting .246 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI, a monster weekend in Minnesota (in which he went 8-for-14 with four homers and six ribbies), the only thing holding him back from a .227 average, 11 home runs and 36 RBI through nearly half a season of baseball.
Not only was Ortiz not hitting for power, he wasn’t hitting at all. It was what had the Red Sox all but out of the race by early July — their best hitter had not been their best hitter.
But after virtually a full half-season without being the hitter who played as big a role in Boston’s 2013 run as any player, Ortiz has looked like the hitter who hit .309 with .959 OPS last season with 30 home runs and 103 RBI.
Since returning from the All-Star Break with a disastrous weekend set with the Kansas City Royals, where Ortiz went just 1-for-13, the designated hitter has been on a tear.
In 25 games going back to July 21, Ortiz is hitting .318 (28-for-88) with a 1.098 OPS, 15 extra-base hits, 10 home runs and 29 RBI. He’s slugged .716, with a home run for 8.8 at-bats. The next closest slugging percentage over that stretch? Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph, who has slugged .655 in 58 at-bats.
Ortiz is hitting .444 with a 1.384 OPS, four home runs and 11 RBI in his last nine games, and has reached base 12 times in his last 14 plate appearances, with eight hits and two home runs.
Ortiz is driving the ball, hitting to all fields, particularly going the other way with the ball (something he hasn’t done when he’s struggled). Mashing the ball all over the place, he’s looked like the elite No. 3 hitter we saw not only in 2013, but over the past 12 seasons.
Had he been in this form earlier in the season, with Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts providing solid production atop the order, circumstances would likely be very different with this team as we go deeper into August.