Big Papi = Big Problem: The Sudden Decline of the AL's Feared Hitter

Dan McConeCorrespondent IMay 15, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 14:  David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox strikes out swinging with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 14, 2009 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  The Angels won 5-4 in 12 innings.   (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Yesterday's line for David Ortiz: 0-for-7 3 K's and 11 men left on base.  Two balls were hit  out of the infield.  What a sad, yet telling day for the Red Sox power hitter. Off to another terrible start, David Ortiz single-handedly lost the game for the Sox yesterday afternoon in Anaheim.

Ortiz left the bases loaded twice, once grounding slowly out to first and the second time tapping back to the mound.

So far this year, Ortiz is hitting a measly .208, slugging at exactly .300 and his an OPS of .618.  In a 130 at-bats, no home runs. Zero. He has more strikeouts (30) than RBI (15).  Big Papi is only hitting .250 with runners in scoring position. 

Okay, so we can all say that Ortiz got off to a slow start last season when he ended April 2008 hitting only .198.  Yet, when Papi did connect, he was hitting with power, 5 home runs, and driving in runs with 21. 

By June 1, when Ortiz went on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his wrist, Papi was hitting .264/13/43 with an OPS of .843.  He had slowly regained his form from the slow start in April. 

Then came July 31st, 2008.  The trade that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers in a three-way trade and in return the Sox got Jason Bay. Papi complained that losing Manny would hurt the team and him, offensively. 

The month of August, Ortiz may have been right.  He only poked out three home runs and walked 25 times.  Pitchers worked around him.  He finished the season with 23 home runs, 89 driven in and hit .264.

But something hasn't seemed right since the wrist injury. He's got less power. He's late on the fastball. Last season, pitchers worked around him. This season, they are going right at him. 

Opposing pitchers are more afraid of Kevin Youkilis and Bay. Ortiz looks old out there, like an aging Willie Mays when he was on the Mets.  It hurts to say that, but it's becoming a stark reality. 

The rumors are swirling around Ortiz. The dreaded 's' word has been plaguing him and how can you look away from it?  His best friend and former teammate Manny Ramirez has been suspended 50 games for using PED's.  He's been linked to Alex Rodriguez cousin in A-Rod's steroid scandal. 

Here's a look at David Ortiz at bats per home runs:

With the Minnesota Twins: 1 home run per 25.5 at-bats

With the Red Sox from 2003-2007: 1 per 13.2 at-bats

2004-2006: 1 per 12.2 at-bats

2008-2009: 1 per 23.7 at-bats

Since the wrist injury and his return in late July of 2008:  1 per 33.6 at-bats

How can you not question David Ortiz?  Is it the wrist injury?  Has he been really affected by the Manny Ramirez trade? Or is this becoming a story in itself where Ortiz will be plagued by questions and relationships from a previous life?

For now, if I'm Terry Francona, I am sitting Ortiz for the Seattle series. Let him refocus on making good, solid contact. Maybe even put him on the DL with a pretend hamstring injury.  When he returns to the lineup, hit him sixth in the lineup. But, Theo Epstein needs to start thinking about his investment with David Ortiz. 

The writing is on the wall.  This is a wounded three legged dog that needs to be put out to the pasture.  The Red Sox truly have a problem here.