Most of the handwringing regarding the Sox’s slow start boils down to concern about Ortiz, who’s in the final year of a four-year, $52 million deal. It took just two games and seven futile at-bats before the calls for his benching began, and at this writing he’s now 6-for-41 with 17 strikeouts and zero homers; last night he was pulled in favor of Mike Lowell to face lefty Darren Oliver with two on and two out in the seventh inning, the Sox down by two. That the 34-year-old slugger is in decline isn’t exactly up for debate:
Year AVG OBP SLG TAv WARP
2007 .332 .445 .621 .341 7.2
2008 .264 .369 .507 .292 2.5
2009 .238 .332 .462 .266 0.5
As bad as that progression looks, the last line conceals the drastic split between the first couple months of his season (.185/.284/.287 with a lone homer in 208 PA through May 31), and the rest (.264/.356/.548 with 27 homers in 419 PA). Which isn’t to say that it’s only a matter of time before Ortiz’s 2007 form comes around again; two years of wrist woes as well as the general aging process applied to a bulky sloth with a history of knee problems should see to that. PECOTA isn’t entirely down on Ortiz, forecasting a .274/.368/.514 weighted mean projection, but even so, those aren’t the numbers of a lineup centerpiece anymore.