August 10, 2007


Ortiz is powerless in clutch (Gordon Edes, August 10, 2007, Boston Globe)

[Brady] Anderson became a solid player for the Orioles, averaging just over 15 home runs a season, until 1996, when he hit 50, two fewer than Mark McGwire and one more than Ken Griffey Jr. It was a shocking explosion, made even more shocking (and in many circles, suspicious) when, after his 50-homer season, Anderson hit just 18 in each of the next two years and never again hit more than 24.

Until this season, there have been only two other times in which a player who hit 50 home runs hit fewer than 30 the next. One was Hack Wilson, the hard-living Cubs outfielder who hit 56 in 1930, the same season he drove in 191 runs, a major league record. The 5-foot-6-inch Wilson fought with manager Rogers Hornsby the next season -- his heavy drinking was a prime source of friction -- and he finished the 1931 season with just 13 home runs.

In 2001, Luis Gonzalez, the slender-as-a-blade-of-grass outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hit 57 home runs in the greatest season of his life, climaxed by a broken-bat single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to win Game 7 of the World Series. The next season, Gonzalez dropped to 28, and now, at the tail end of his career with the Dodgers, he has been in the teens the last two seasons.

Of the 39 times there have been 50 home runs in a season, one slugger hit 70 the next year (McGwire in 1998). Three times a player hit at least 60 (Sammy Sosa twice and McGwire). Six hit at least 50, 15 at least 40, and nine at least 30.

But this season, there may be a fourth 50-homer hitter who fails to crack 30 the following season, and he plays for the Red Sox: David Ortiz.

Alan Tieuli, a senior administrator of communications for J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series and the man who did the 50-homer research using Sean Forman's website, said that at his current pace, Ortiz projects to hit 28 home runs. Ortiz, who did not play Wednesday and is iffy here for tonight's opener against the Orioles because of recurring inflammation in his left shoulder, has 19 home runs, tied with Manny Ramírez for the club lead.

The most physically similar guys on his Most Comparable Players list--guys like Boog Powell & Mo Vaughn--didn't exactly age well...

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 10, 2007 7:21 AM

Huge, abrupt power dropoff & nagging joint injuries. In other words, an older guy who's stopped juicing.

Posted by: b at August 10, 2007 11:33 AM

It's actual typical for guys of his type. He's Mo Vaughn.

Posted by: oj at August 10, 2007 2:15 PM

Duh. Of course it's typical for guys his type. It's the last several years that were atypical. One might even say unnatural...

Posted by: b at August 10, 2007 2:31 PM

Any leg injuries will reduce a power hitter`s totals.

Posted by: Bob Michaels at August 10, 2007 2:37 PM

It's extremely typical for such guys to have a peak three year run somewhere between ages 26-31, once they have over 1,000 ab's in the majors. His career is following a textbook arc.

Posted by: oj at August 10, 2007 4:41 PM

Willie Stargell, Rusty Staub, even Babe Ruth played well into their late 30s. Maybe Ortiz just needs to eat a few Fenway Franks.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 11, 2007 10:35 PM

Staub never had a season of 350 abs after he hit his mid 30s, nor Stargell one over 500 after 34.

Babe Ruth wasn't built like those guys until his late 30s.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2007 6:36 AM