We all know how the story goes; David "Arias" Ortiz went from medium slugging 1B/DH with the Minnesota Twins to the "Big Papi" in Boston. After topping the .500 slugging percentage mark just once in Minnesota (.500 exactly in 2002), Ortiz went to post the following slugging marks in his first five season in Boston: .592, .603, .604, .636, .621. Injuries took a toll on Ortiz in 2008, and he was back down to his pre Boston level's with a slugging of .507. This year...well the slugging has taken a major hit. Ortiz has gone homer-less in his first 142 plate appearances of 2009, and is slugging just .328. In terms of raw power, Papi's career ISO of .263 is down to just .103. While Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay continue to hit for power behind him, Ortiz is struggling to raise his slugging to a level that rivals Kaz Matsui or Nyjer Morgan.
So what is eating away at Ortiz's power? We've seen sluggers like Travis Hafner fall from grace recently due injury, however Ortiz maintains his wrist is healthy, and will hit continue to hit for power. There have been plenty of DH types who have crashed with age, but Ortiz says he still has a lot left. Looking at his batted ball percentages, Ortiz is hitting more line drives and fly balls than he has in recent years. However, he doesn't have the same drive behind the swing. Pitchers seem to be pitching Ortiz the same way with 54% of the pitches he sees being fastballs. He is seeing slightly less change-ups, and as we saw Sunday night against Matt Garza, a few more curveballs.
Ortiz has been going out of the zone a bit more this year which means he's chasing bad pitches. A career O-Swing of 18.3%, Ortiz is up over 25% this year. With the increase of bad swings has come an increase in strikeouts. He is striking out 22.4% of the time in 2009 which is his highest since 2004. Tito Francona has said recently that he will continue to play Ortiz and feed the big guy at bats. Maybe a little bit of patience will go along way it turning around his season, but the clock is starting to tick louder. It's only a matter of time until we know if his career will take a turn for the worse like Cecil Fielder or if he will be able to sustain a career into his late 30's like Jim Thome.