Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What will David Ortiz's Last Season Look Like?

The big news in New England today is that David Ortiz will be retiring after the 2016 season.

Ortiz will retire as the most beloved Sox slugger since Yaz hung up his cleats after the 1983 season. But if the first thought in Boston's fan is to be sad about his retirement, the second one is most likely "What kind of season will Papi have in 2016?"

Ortiz turns 40 today (Happy Birthday, Papi!). Not too many players have a career that goes into their 40s and stay productive when they get there. His last three seasons have been remarkably consistent, all with 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI and 500+ AB. He has stayed healthy and has contributed. But 40...things change when you hit 40.

Baseball Reference has this projection for Ortiz in 2016:

567 Plate Appearances | 130 H | 30 2B | 30 HR | 91 RBI | .863 OPS

That would represent his lowest OPS since 2009 and the first time he went under 600 plate appearances in a 100+ game season since 2008. That said, it would still be a pretty remarkable season for a hitter in his 40s. In fact, you could argue that it would be the best season ever for a 40+ hitter with 500 or more homers not named Ted Williams. Which either speaks to Ortiz's longevity or Baseball Reference being too optimistic.

If those stats held, here would be Ortiz's final career numbers:

10032 Plate Appearances | 2433 H | 614 2B | 533 HR | 1732 RBI

And for his career, here is where he would place all-time:

Plate Appearances: 82nd

Hits: 117th

Doubles: 11th

Home Runs: 19th

RBI: 21st (tied with Honus Wagner)

It is also worth noting that Ortiz would be one of only three players in MLB history to retire with 500+ HR, 600+ 2B and 1600+ RBI. The other two players are Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Which I think will make for some very interesting and volatile HOF arguments once Ortiz retires.

My gut says that BR is being slightly optimistic. The past couple of seasons Ortiz has started cold and needed a scorching second half of a season to get his numbers up. Can he do that again at age 40? I think it will be a little harder to do. But I do think he will still reach 600+ doubles. So get those HOF arguments ready.

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