David Ortiz’s Erratic Batting Habits, Lack of Plate Discipline Alarming Despite Hot Streak


David Ortiz's Erratic Batting Habits, Lack of Plate Discipline Alarming Despite Hot Streak After David Ortiz's three strikeout "Silver Sombrero" in Sunday's loss to the Rangers, it seems necessary to go inside the numbers regarding Big Papi's plate discipline.

C.J. Wilson is the most effective left-handed starter in the league against lefties with an .093 opponent batting average, but Ortiz didn't look like himself.

Even if his OPS of .913 is good for ninth-best in the AL, Ortiz's 80 strikeouts in 266 at-bats rank him seventh-worst in the league — his worst ranking ever. In total, he's striking out 30.1 percent of the time, also a career low.

Here's why.

According to FanGraphs.com, Ortiz is chasing a career-high 23.5 percent of pitches out of the zone while taking cuts at only 68.6 percent of strikes, 0.2 off his career low. Pitchers have figured this out, and they are throwing him good pitches only 41.5 percent of the time, and only 49.1 percent on first pitches. Both of those are career low marks as well.

Ortiz is actually making contact on bad pitches at 59.8 percent of the time, a career high, but his mark of 83.1 percent of strikes is yet another career low.

A common notion about Papi in recent years is that he has lost his ability to get around on fastballs, according to many fans and analysts. While his 10.1 percent swinging strike percentage substantiates such, the statistics actually point the other direction.

Ortiz still indexes at plus-11 against fastballs, a solid number, though much lower than his peak marks in the upper 30s and low 40s. Against sliders and curveballs, Papi is the worst he has ever been, minus-4.0 and minus-0.8, respectively, but pitchers haven't figured this out. In fact, because of the popular "lost swing speed" idea, Ortiz is seeing more fastballs than ever at 60.6 percent, with corresponding new lows in percentages of breaking pitches. One, though, could argue that his success against fastballs is the result of him being able to sit on the pitch.

One plus of pitchers trying to bait Papi out of the zone is that he is being walked often. So often, in fact, that his 52 free passes are the fourth-most in the AL – a major reason for his high OPS. Another silver lining to the data is that Ortiz's strikeout percentage consistently dropped from around 40 percent in April to about 25 percent in June, though it is again on the climb.

While Ortiz's OPS may be his strongest argument for a contract extension, are Red Sox fans concerned about his newfound lack of discipline at the dish?

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