BOSTON — David Ortiz is enjoying one heck of a farewell tour.
The Red Sox’s iconic designated hitter will retire after the 2016 playoffs, ending an illustrious 20-year career. As far as official statistics go, though, the book already is closed on Ortiz after Sunday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, his final regular-season contest ever.
That means we can look back and marvel at what a season it’s been for Big Papi. Ortiz’s 2016 stats are remarkable for any player, regardless of age: a .315 batting average, .401 on-base percentage and 1.021 OPS to go along with 38 home runs, 127 RBIs and 48 doubles.
But the fact that he posted those numbers at 40 years old while battling chronic foot pain begs the question: Did we just witness the greatest final season in Major League Baseball history?
First things first: Based on stats alone, Ortiz had one of the best offensive seasons ever by a player his age. No 40-year-old player in MLB history ever has hit 38-plus homers or 127-plus RBIs. His .620 slugging percentage is the highest ever by a player his age or older, and his .315 batting average and .401 OBP are the highest by a player his age since Stan Musial in 1962.
As for the best final seasons, only five players in the post-World War II era can give Ortiz a serious run for his money: Ted Williams (1960), Barry Bonds (2007), Mickey Mantle (1968), Will Clark (2000) and Kirby Puckett (1995). Here’s how Ortiz’s 2016 stats stack up to those legends.
Ortiz (40 years old): .315/.401/.620 (BA/OBP/SLG), 38 HR, 127 RBIs, 5.0 offensive WAR
Williams (41): 316/.451/.645, 29 HR, 72 RBIs, 4.8 offensive WAR
Bonds (42): .276/.480/.565, 28 HR, 66 RBIs, 4.3 offensive WAR
Mantle (36): .237/.385/.398, 18 HR, 54 RBIs, 4.1 offensive WAR
Clark (36): .319/.418/.546, 21 HR, 70 RBIs, 4.0 offensive WAR
Puckett (35): .314/.379/.515, 23 HR, 99 RBIs, 3.9 offensive WAR
It should be noted that Ortiz plays in a different era than most of those players and had the benefit of playing just one game in the field all season. He also faces stiffer competition among pre-WWII hitters: Shoeless Joe Jackson, for example, hit .382 with 121 RBIs in his final season in 1920.
But it’s hard to argue with the above stats, especially considering that Big Papi is the oldest player on that list, save for Williams. The Splendid Splinter’s final season is the only one that comes close to Ortiz’s last year, and from a purely statistical standpoint, Ortiz has him beat.
Of course, these glowing statistics probably won’t mean much to Big Papi if he can’t deliver in the postseason. Ortiz has said multiple times that ending his career with a fourth World Series title is his ultimate goal, and that truly would elevate him to a whole different plane.
The playoffs haven’t started yet, though, and in the meantime, it’s worth appreciating history unfold before our own eyes.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images