Here we go again.
On the heels of a rather unimpressive spring (.226/.284/.419 with three homers in 62 at-bats), David Ortiz has opened the 2010 season 0-for-7, already leading to a string of articles that he’s done.
Last year saw the same thing, though I think it took at least a week. And Ortiz really did look done for a span of two months. He didn’t hit his first homer until May 20. In the 49 games before he hit his second homer on June 6, he batted .188/.281/.288 in 191 at-bats. He was about as much of a liability as any major leaguer over that span.
The rest of the season was a much different story, though. Ortiz came in at .266/.360/.557 with 27 homers and 78 RBI in his remaining 350 at-bats. It was still south of what he did from 2003 to 2007, but he was one of the AL’s better hitters for four months.
Yet Ortiz entered 2010 as a question mark, the so-called key to whether the Red Sox offense would be merely above average or one of baseball’s best. And the 0-for-7 start makes for an easy story for writers facing a deadline.
A little too easy. Ortiz looked lost at the plate for much of the early portion of last year. We’ve hardly gotten to that point this year. In Tuesday’s loss, he hit a ball in his first at-bat that would have been a single for everyone else in the league. However, the Yankees employed the shift to perfection and his hard shot into what should have been the hole between first and second was gloved by Robinson Cano in shallow right.
In the eighth, he should have been ahead 3-0 on Damaso Marte, but Angel Hernandez called a pitch eight inches off the plate a strike. Had the count been 3-0 instead of 2-1, maybe he would have crushed the hittable fastball he received next. As it was, he was a touch slow and flied out to center.
Ortiz is no longer a superstar, but if he’s still a 900-OPS designated hitter, he’s quite an asset. I projected him to finish a bit under that: .263/.358/.504 with 28 homers and 97 RBI in 502 at-bats. Given his decline, it makes sense to play matchups with him and slide him down in the lineup when he’s slumping. But I doubt we’ll get to the point at which the Red Sox will simply give up on him.
As for whether he should start tonight, I’m in favor of it. Sitting Ortiz in favor of Mike Lowell against tough lefties will make sense most of the time. Ortiz, though, has hit .367/.431/.551 in 49 career at-bats against Andy Pettitte. Manager Terry Francona will pick his spots to get Lowell into the lineup, but I’m not sure this should be one of them.
Here we go again.