Earlier today, David Ortiz launched his 400th career home run, a solo shot off A's starter A.J. Griffin in the fourth inning. He became just the 49th player in MLB history to reach this milestone, which, needless to say, is an impressive feat. And, though a little less glorious, Ortiz also happened to join the 1000-walk club today (a group that's essentially half as exclusive), with a sixth inning walk against Griffin.
After reaching both milestones today, David Ortiz's current line sits at .302/.391/.607. He's drawn a walk for every strikeout, he currently boasts an ISO north of .300, and his 157 wRC+ is tied for the second-highest mark of his career. In other words, he's having a phenomenal season -- which I suppose isn't so extraordinary for a talented hitter like Ortiz. If you go by wRC+, he's had three seasons as good or better than the one he's having right now.
But in context, the things he's doing this season are even more amazing. David Ortiz is 36 years old, yet he's producing like he did when he was turning 30. 36 year old hitters rarely hit like this. Not including today's performance, ZiPS projects Ortiz to finish the season at .291/.381/.568 (625 PA). That would be the ninth-highest slugging percentage by a 36-year-old ever, placing him in between Hank Aaron and Jim Thome. Moreover, that would be the fifth-highest ISO by a 36-year-old ever, placing him in between (in the opposite order) Jim Thome and Hank Aaron.
Let's not forget -- this is a hitter who many thought was toast in 2009.
Ortiz had a career year a couple seasons prior to that, with a 171 OPS+ and a league-leading .445 OBP. The next season, he missed 45 games due to a left wrist strain, and ultimately saw his OPS drop nearly 200 points. I
Then 2009 came, and he got off to a dreadful start. Through April, he had a .623 OPS. By the end of May, it had fallen to .570. 49 games and 221 plate appearances into the 2009 season, a 33-year-old David Ortiz was hitting .188/.281/.288 with one home run.
Many thought the end was near for Ortiz. It prompted a now-infamous piece from ESPN's Bill Simmons entitled "When great ones go, it might hurt us more than it does them." I wasn't blogging back then, but I can vividly remember thinking the same, that Ortiz was nearing the end of his usefulness as a major-league player.
And that's why I'm so astounded by his performance so far. He's hitting like he did in his prime, putting up particularly phenomenal numbers with respect to his age. And he's doing it three years after many thought he was done for.