Over the past couple of seasons, the rapid decline of David Ortiz has been somewhat spectacular.
Ortiz has not hit 30 or more home runs since 2007. His batting average dropped to .264 in 2008, and .238 last year. Meanwhile, his OBP dipped to an anemic .332 last season.
In 2006 and 2007, Ortiz had more walks than strikeouts. But last season, Ortiz struck out 134 times and drew 74 walks. And in 2008, Ortiz posted 74 strikeouts and 70 walks.
His current trend is a bad one. He has been going in the wrong direction for two straight years.
That's why there was so much interest in Ortiz going into spring training. If Ortiz swings a potent bat this season, the Red Sox
offense will be all the better for it.
But there is reason for concern.
The Red Sox DH started miserably last year and looked impotent for two solid months. At times Ortiz seemed to lack a pulse. But he still managed to finish the year with 28 homers and 99 RBI. While those are solid numbers for most hitters, they were tepid for the player who became a cult hero over his first five years in Boston.
Much to everyone's disappointment, Ortiz is hitting .214 since the start of spring training. Sadly, many of us are hardly surprised. The scary thought is that, at age 34, Ortiz may be washed up. He looks the same way he did for much of last year at the plate—lost.
Ortiz is fond of saying, "It's not how you start—it's how you finish."
But considering that this is his last year under contract in Boston, if he doesn't start strong, he may not finish the season in Boston.
Mike Lowell is still on the roster, and if he's healthy (a big "if" at this point), he could be seen as a better alternative in the DH spot. Ortiz is a very one-dimensional player—all stick, no glove. And if he has no stick, then what's his value and function?
Lowell suffered a left knee contusion in today's game, the effects of which are unknown at present.
Perhaps of greater concern, he told reporters the other day that his right hip may never recover the mobility he'd been hoping for. He also said he recognizes that he may be best suited for a DH role in the AL.
While that doesn't exactly inspire hope that he'll ever be the stellar defensive player he once was, Lowell still believes he can hit, and there's little reason to doubt him.
Despite his hip injury and subsequent surgery in 2008, Lowell has remained an offensive threat.
That year, Lowell was still a productive hitter, batting .274 with 17 homers, 73 RBI, and a .798 OPS. He followed that last season by batting .290 with 17 homers, 75 RBI, and an .811 OPS.
So while his eventual trade has been widely viewed as a foregone conclusion, given David Ortiz's continued struggles, that may not be the case after all.