Wednesday, July 4, 2007

why is [phenomenon] happening? because [anecdotal bullshit], that's why.

ah, the wonderful world of sports journalism. where columnists don't really need to check any facts before writing their stories. why do that? it's much easier to confidently justify their points with some vague, unsubstantiated anecdotes. besides, what if the facts actually disproved the point they were trying to make? wouldn't make much sense to include them then, now would it. case in point-'s kevin hench and this piece about why david ortiz's home run numbers this season have dropped compared to 2006.

Big Papi has come up small so far

All of Red Sox Nation wants to know, where is Papi's power mojo? Why has Papi's perpetual smile been replaced by a sullen scowl even with the Sox comfortably in first place? Why has Papi's grumbling at home plate umps become more commonplace than his post-homer skyward finger point?

Three factors have contributed mightily to Papi's power outage this season: wary pitchers, wacky weather and weird luck.

a nice, neat little three part thesis. unfortunately, all three parts are gigantic anecdotal turds.

Ortiz sees about one fastball strike a week. It's simply incredible — and predictably depressing for Papi — how few quality pitches the guy gets. Even with Manny Ramirez in the on-deck circle, pitchers are resolutely refusing to give Ortiz anything to hit.

Papi sees a nightly fusillade of sliders, curves and splits. If it's straight, it's way in or broomstick distance off the plate.

listen, this may or may not be true. i honestly don't have the energy to go to my account and watch a bunch of ortiz at bats to see how many hittable fastballs he gets. but regardless of whether he's geting "one fastball strike a week" or not, this implication makes zero sense. first of all, you're telling me pitchers haven't been pitching aroud this guy for years? in 2004 he hit 41 bombs. in 2005 he hit 47. and last year he hit 54. so you're going to tell me that during those seasons, he was regularly seeing waist high heat from the middle half in... but NOW, in 2007, theyve finally stopped throwing it to him? puh-lease. furthermore, guys have been throwing around sluggers like pujols and bonds and vlad guerrero for years. they still manage to get their hacks in. in 2004 bonds was walked an unbelievable 232 times. he appeared in 147 games, 139 as a starter- and recorded 373 at bats. that's freaking unbelievable. and even with all those guys pitching around him, he still managed 45 HR! now, ortiz is not barry bonds, i understand. but he's a great power hitter on the next tier below bonds (at least for the time being). being "pitched around a lot" not only makes no sense when comparing his performance this year to past years, but also is not an excuse for a guy who is by all standards a dominant left handed power hitter.

The Mariners' broadcast team of Dave Sims and Mike Blowers went on at length during the Red Sox's recent series in Seattle, attributing much of Papi's success to the looming presence of the Hall of Famer who follows him in the order.

But pitchers have not been afraid to pitch around Ortiz , walking him 52 times, good for third in the American League. So far the strategy has made sense. Manny Ramirez is having the worst season of his career (15 points below his rookie OPS) and has produced as many double-play grounders (11) as home runs. Until Manny finds his own power stroke, Ortiz' diet of off-the-plate breaking balls won't get any more appetizing.

nice try, dingbat. ortiz is on pace to walk 10 fewer times than he did last year. that's right, last year, when both he and ramirez were crushing the ball, he still walked 119 times (55 so far this year). so either he's expanded his strike zone and is swinging at and putting into play pitches he normally wouldn't, or... you're an idiot.

The lousy selection of pitches to choose from has been compounded by the lousy hitting weather that has bedeviled Papi right out of the gate.

On April 6, in normally hitter-friendly Texas, Ortiz went 0-for-4 as Robinson Tejeda two-hit the Red Sox over seven innings with a gale-force wind blowing into the batters' faces. The teams combined for seven total bases. It was physically impossible to hit the ball out that day.

It was an omen.

The wind has blown in three directions at Fenway this season. In from left. In from center. And in from right. Longtime Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy who grew up in Fall River, Mass., and played for the Sox from 1978 to 1984 has remarked frequently this season that he's never seen the wind quite like this.

ready for the anecdotal bullshit? there it is! don't blink or you might miss it! just kidding, you could blink a bunch of times, and go take a nap, and it would still be there. so some guy from new england who played in the bigs 25 years ago says the wind is stronger this year than ever before? must be true. you can sleep easy, david ortiz. your lack of home run power is not your fault. it's nature. wait, hold on, i just got a crazy idea. so ortiz isn't hitting home runs because of the wind at fenway, right? well well well, then other hitters' power numbers must be suffering a similar fate, no? let's check out the numbers: (this took me like 5 minutes to find)

2006 HR/game in fenway park: 1.65
2007 HR/game in fenway park: 1.63 (so far)

whoops. yeah... sure is... WINDY out there... watch out for that nasty... WIND. that gets funnier if you imagine norm macdonald saying it. now onto hench's hilarious assertions about "luck".

p.s., i just realized- this guy is a sportswriter from boston, and appears from his mug shot to be somewhere in his 30s. could this hench be bill simmons's buddy hench? that would be awesome. were that the case i would feel doubly good about this blog entry. i wonder if j-bug is a sports columnist too.

Fenway is already murder on left-handed power hitters with right field darting out abruptly to 380 feet, but it's been playing to a par-7 this year for lefties. At least eight times Big Papi has hit a ball on the screws only to see it die on the warning track and disappear into an outfielder's glove.

whereas last year through this point of the season, ortiz eight times tried to bunt but ended up hitting eight home runs. that's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. you see? it's all about bad luck. anecdotally bad luck, in this case, which is even worse than regular bad luck.

That can't last.

Eventually those numbers will start to level out. Balls that have been hitting the tops of walls for doubles will begin to sail over. And balls like the missile he hit just foul in Seattle on Wednesday — missing a three-run home run by six inches — will stay fair.

maybe, maybe not. ortiz is 31 years old. some guys lose their power very quickly in this league. it just happens. he may never top 30 home runs again. or then again, he might come back and hit 54 more in 2008. but given his age i think the former is the more likely outcome. i should add that ramirez is 35; he's even less likely to continue to be a 40 HR kind of guy.

And Manny will start to hit. And Papi will inevitably see more strikes. The wind will settle down and the temperature will start to rise in Boston. And those doubles and warning-track fly balls are going to start finding the seats.

it's july, hench. i'm pretty sure the temperature started to rise about 6 weeks ago, maybe earlier.

And Papi's power mojo — and wayward smile — will be back.

yay for intangibles!


ACE said...

it was pretty warm in beantown last weekend !

Chris W said...