- Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus
In the June 2009 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Bill Simmons wrote an obituary for the bat of David Ortiz. "Look, I've seen slumps," Simmons wrote in reference to Ortiz's awful April. "This was different. This was the collapse of a career."
The Sports Guy can be excused for giving up on Ortiz too early. Ortiz was coming off a 2008 season in which he'd managed only a .293 true average (TAv) -- still a strong figure, but by far his worst with the Boston Red Sox. His start to 2009 was far worse: Ortiz hit .185/.284/.287 with one home run through May. (That line translates to a .205 TAv, a near match for Albert Pujols' .209 mark in 2012.)
He was also 33 years old and stuck in the steepest part of the aging curve, which made his decline seem especially ominous. As Simmons wrote, "That's what happens to beefy sluggers on their way out: Their knees go, they stiffen up, bat speed slows and, in the blink of an eye, they're done." Great hitters don't often fade quite that quickly, but Simmons was hardly the only observer who thought Ortiz was over the hill. Nearly everyone who saw Ortiz early that season came away convinced that his bat had slowed significantly and possibly permanently.
As it turned out, the rumors of Ortiz's demise were wrong.
Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus writes that at the start of 2009, it sure looked like David Ortiz was finished. Now three years later, Ortiz has made some adjustments and improved his approach, and he's hitting like his former self.