I used yesterday’s quiet baseball day to look around at some of the stats and players that I hadn’t been concentrating on up to this point. I find that it can be easy to ignore players and teams in baseball if you don’t take the time occasionally to stop and look deeper because the relentless pace of games and the length of the season requires a constant handicapping pace. One of the players I noticed that caught me off guard was David Ortiz of Boston. I knew that Big Papi wasn’t his normal self this year, but I hadn’t caught just how ugly it is. Two years ago Ortiz hit .332. Three years ago he had 54 home runs. This year he is hitting a pitiful .224, and he has yet to hit a single home run. He’s had 116 at-bats, too, so you can’t even really pass this off as a small sample size distorting things. You have to really wonder how much of this is just a temporary problem, and how much is a sign of decline. I don’t want to call Ortiz old because he is two months younger than I am. The fact remains, though, that the curve on his stat chart is unquestionably going downward. Last year he hit just .264 with 23 home runs, and he got worse as the season progressed – he hit only .244 in September. This year he hit .230 in April, and is at .207 so far this month. Injuries have been a concern both last year and this year, and he doesn’t have the protection of that ‘roid junkie Manny anymore, but you really have to wonder if the best days are in the rear view mirror for Ortiz. A guy that big is hard on his body (he’s listed at 230 pounds, but I find that very hard to believe). He certainly could turn this around at some point, but I have to think that the odds are against a long, sustained upswing.
With a win against the Nationals yesterday, Randy Johnson now has 298. It hasn’t always been pretty, but he’s 3-3 despite playing for a team that really struggles to hit. This sets up a potentially fascinating opportunity. If he could somehow find a way to beat the Mets and Johan Santana on Saturday then he would be set up for his first shot at 300 wins in Seattle against the mariners. That is, of course, the team where he made his first big impact after being traded there from the Expos for Mark Langston. He spent more time in Seattle than anywhere else, and really should wear an M on his cap in the hall of fame when he gets there eventually. That would be great theater.
Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman tries to extend his consecutive hit streak to 30 games tonight at San Francisco. He’s lucky enough to have avoided Tim Lincecum in the rotation for the Giants. 30 games is where these hit streaks will start to get interesting. I’ve read a couple of different numbers today, but the odds of Zimmerman breaking the magical 56 game streak is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 2000. That doesn’t sound so good, but if you consider that the chances of a .300 hitter (Zimmerman was .282 on his career before this year) hitting in 56 straight games is about 1 in 4 million then you realize that Zimmerman has really accomplished something.
This may be te stupidest penalty ever. White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks threw a pitch behind Ian Kinsler the other day, and it wouldn’t be hard to make the argument that he did it intentionally. The league has decided to fine Jenks. I have no problem with that. The problem, though, is how much they fined him – reportedly just $750. Jenks makes $5.6 million this year. If you reduce that down to more comprehensible terms, that’s like taking someone who makes $50,000 a year and fining them $6.70. Seriously. What’s the point?