At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

Stark Facts about Big Papi & Johnny Damon

Posted by athomeatfenway on June 18, 2012

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BIG PAPI & THE AGE OF THE PITCHER:  The large father is a well-rounded hitter in 2012, batting .306 B.A., with 15 HR’s and 41 RBI in 64 games.  He is tracking to match his final 2011 numbers of .309, 29 and 96.  So, if the rest of Baseball’s hitters have been declining, why has David maintained his hitting prowess?

If you have not heard that we are living in the new Years of the Pitcher, you should read Jayson Stark’s recent essay, The Age of The Pitcher, which you can find here:  http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8048897/the-age-pitcher-how-got-here-mlb

Stark provides the stats to show that a 6 year decline exists in HR’s and Runs-scored since the 50 game penalty for steroid use came into being.  Current amphetamine testing is also having an impact.  More young pitchers reach MLB with a 95 mph fastball, and an increasing percentage of first pitch change-ups are being tossed.  All of these factors confuse and constrain the already steroid-free batters.

Buster Olney and Stark chewed on this subject on-air yesterday.  Stark quoted David Ortiz as saying that he is frustrated by more and more hard throwers who keep the ball out of the strike zone and also mix in offspeed pitches, with Justin Verlander being a prime example.

So why has David actually looked more consistent, if less powerful, in recent years?  Could be that he is slimmer.  Could be that he is older and wiser.  But shouldn’t his aging bat be slowing down?

With or without his use of magic milkshakes, David has always been a very good hitter, capable of protecting the plate and getting a good pitch to hit.

As Bobby Valentine said in Hartford while appearing in November 2011 at the World Affairs Council, “It’s easy to pay one person to be your dedicated DH instead of doing it by committee when you have as good a hitter as David Ortiz to do the job.”

Couldn’t agree more.  Papi will sniff out the change-up.  He doesn’t freeze on the outside curve.  He can hit a 95 mph heater.  The hole in his swing (lower inside quadrant) seems to be gone.  And yes, he swings better without the 25 pounds he dropped.

The man is an inspiration.

Think I’ll start my diet right now. 

NO HALL FOR JOHNNIE:  There are JUST 3 players with 3,000 hits who will never be in the HOF:  Pete Rose, Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro.  Gambling and steroid-use will keep those three out of Cooperstown.  But if your reputation is clean like Johnnie Damon, and you have 2,723 hits at age 37, and you just collected 152 hits for Tampa in 2011, you have a clear path to the HOF to pursue. 

Johnny needed only to produce in 2012 & 2013 as he did in 2011 to finish with 3,047 hits.  Ticket punched.

It is not to be.  The Rays went with 33-year-old Luke Scott at DH instead of Damon.  Scott is now  batting .220 with 9 HR and 35 RBI in 2012.  Scott is pacing below Johnnie’s 2011 performance of .261 BA, 19 HR and 73 RBI, 19 SB, 79 Runs and 29 doubles.

After Tampa did not re-sign him, Johnnie hunted for a job throughout the winter.  No one wanted him.  Finally, in May, Cleveland picked him up for $1.2 million annually, $4 million less than Tampa paid him last year.  $4 million less than Luke Scott is making this year.

As of June 15, Johnnie is batting .180 with 20 hits.

It is sad that Johnnie didn’t get his chance to stick with one team at the end of his career.    I’ll always remember him as a dangerous man at the plate, a fleet base runner, an able centerfielder, and a great teammate who happily took the media heat in the clubhouse. 

Johnnie certainly had enough talent to reach the HOF.   He’ll miss by a smidge.

Go Sox.

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