David Ortiz’s Return Will Add New Dimension to Red Sox’ Offense, Spruce Up Well-Oiled Machine

David OrtizIf it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Many of life’s issues could be avoided if more people accepted the simple adage. In the case of the Red Sox, though, adding David Ortiz to a mix that’s responsible for rattling off six straight wins hardly means trying to fix a well-oiled machine.

Instead, let’s just say that adding Ortiz is like slapping some new rims on an already sweet ride. The Sox’ offense doesn’t need much fine-tuning, but sprucing it up certainly increases its value.

When it comes to Ortiz, we’re talking about an eight-time All-Star who was the team’s most productive hitter last year before an injury derailed his season. Ortiz launched 23 home runs, compiled 60 RBIs, hit .318 and got on base at a .415 clip in 90 games. His .611 slugging percentage was the best in the majors, and his 1.026 OPS was tops in the American League.

To truly appreciate Ortiz’s impact on the Red Sox in what was a disastrous 2012 season, we must look no further than the records. With Ortiz, the Red Sox were 46-44 (.511 winning percentage). Without Ortiz, they were 23-49 (.319 winning percentage).

All of these indisputable facts seem to indicate that the Red Sox are a better team with Ortiz than without Ortiz, so expecting his presence in the lineup to disrupt some sort of flow the club has established over the course of its six-game winning streak is foolish. It’s especially silly when considering the Red Sox’ success has been based mostly on its pitching. There’s still room for improvement on the offensive side of the fence, and Ortiz will help facilitate that improvement.

The Red Sox enter Saturday’s game with 75 runs (10th in the majors), 132 hits (16th) and a .257 average (13th). None of this is to say the Red Sox don’t have plenty of talent in their lineup sans Ortiz, but those numbers are all rather middle of the pack. Ortiz should help increase Boston’s offensive output, especially in the home run department, where the Red Sox rank 19th in the bigs with just 14 blasts in 15 games.

The Red Sox have played much more small ball this season than in years past, and it has worked. Adding Ortiz won’t change manager John Farrell’s approach, though. He’ll simply add a new dimension.

Will Middlebrooks is arguably the Red Sox’ biggest power threat outside of Ortiz, and he’s struggled mightily of late. Middlebrooks is just 2-for-30 (.067) with one RBI since his three home run outburst in Toronto on April 7, and the struggles prompted Farrell to give the third baseman a night off on Thursday. Ortiz or no Ortiz, Middlebrooks will likely turn things around at some point, but having Ortiz in the lineup will certainly alleviate some of the pressure that’s been placed on the 24-year-old.

Ortiz will bat cleanup upon his return, which will move Mike Napoli down to fifth. With Napoli on a tear, this seems rather counterintuitive, but Ortiz hitting ahead of Napoli should only increase the first baseman’s RBI opportunities. The Red Sox also now find themselves with plenty of lefty-righty balance from top to bottom, which could be a nightmare for opposing managers.

It’s hard to get off to a faster start than the Red Sox have this season. If the Sox suddenly pump the brakes, Ortiz won’t be the reason. In fact, they just might step on the gas with him in the lineup.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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