So we all know by now that David Ortiz will retire at the end of the 2016 season. And we’ve also heard the conventional wisdom that he’ll stroll into Cooperstown. Maybe that’s what will happen, but it’s not what should happen, at least by my numbers. To this point in his career, Papi’s value is similar to that of Dolph Camilli and Carlos Delgado. That puts him right behind Fred McGriff, poor Hall selection Orlando Cepeda, and Ed Konetchy.
Without belaboring all of the reasons conventional wisdom has Ortiz going to the Hall, let’s consider today what would have to happen for Papi to deserve induction. One way would be for Ortiz to put up a 12-WAR season, which I think we can all stipulate that he’s not going to accomplish. The only time he’s ever been worth half that in a season was back in 2007. And no hitter in the game has reached that level since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. So we need to find another way for Ortiz to get in.
So let’s exit dream land. If Ortiz is going to the Hall of Fame, or going to deserve HoME induction, it’s because of the tremendous extra value people give to him for his playoff exploits.
David Ortiz needs to bridge the gap between his current value and that of Mark McGwire, the lowest rated 1B HoMEr in terms of MAPES (my sorting system to help determine HoME-worthiness). As it is now, the gap is a bit over 8 points. More significantly, Papi would have to pass Konetchy, Cepeda, McGriff, Norm Cash, Gil Hodges, Tony Perez, Frank Chance, Fred Tenney, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Stovey, John Olerud, and Will Clark. That’s a pretty huge amount of territory to make up. So let’s get started!
Even though this is a silly little exercise, I want to do it in the most pro-Ortiz, yet still sane, manner I can. Thus, we’re going make no changes in Papi’s WAR for any season he didn’t make the playoffs. We’re only going to extra-credit him for those years in which his team reached October. That’s sensible, right?
Ortiz has played 19 seasons so far. And his teams have made the playoffs in eight of them. Let’s take a look at his WAR with my current adjustments so we can identify what seasons we’re talking about.
Year WAR 1997 0.2 1998 0.5 1999 -0.5 2000 0.8 2001 0.3 2002 1.4* 2003 2.9* 2004 4.2* 2005 5.4* 2006 5.6 2007 6.4* 2008 1.8* 2009 0.7* 2010 2.7 2011 3.9 2012 3.2 2013 4.4* 2014 2.9 2015 3.2
Shortening up the chart, we’re looking only at the following years, those in which he got to the post-season.
Year WAR Season Playoff PA PA =============================== 2002 1.4 466 29 2003 2.9 509 45 2004 4.2 669 68 2005 5.4 713 12 2007 6.4 667 63 2008 1.8 491 52 2009 0.7 627 12 2013 4.4 600 68
Let’s make this easy. Let’s say that every October trip to the plate is ten times as valuable as every regular season trip to the plate. And let’s say that Papi performed at his regular season rate in every playoff series. Here’s what his new WAR would be.
Year WAR Season Playoff Extra New PA PA WAR WAR ============================================== 2002 1.4 466 29 0.87 2.27 2003 2.9 509 45 2.56 5.46 2004 4.2 669 68 4.29 8.51 2005 5.4 713 12 0.91 6.34 2007 6.4 667 63 6.06 12.48 2008 1.8 491 52 1.93 3.75 2009 0.7 627 12 0.14 0.87 2013 4.4 600 68 4.99 9.39
So let’s plug those new WAR numbers into my system to see where Ortiz stacks up.
If we gave Ortiz this much extra credit for playoff performance – but didn’t give a single other person in baseball history one iota of such credit, he’d rank as the 11th best 1B ever, just ahead of Frank Thomas and Johnny Mize. And that would clearly get him into the Hall of Miller and Eric.
On the other hand, all I’ve really established so far is that I shouldn’t just ignore the rest of this experiment. By some really strange standard, yes, Ortiz would have a shot at the HoME. Now let’s try to be more reasonable.
In 2002 Ortiz struck out in more than 1/3 of his trips to the plate, didn’t homer, and saw his team lose in the ALCS. In these playoffs, he was just another guy. Unless you advocate an entirely different way of looking at the game than I do, ignoring Ortiz in October of 2002 is probably the right move.
After we do this, Papi remains ahead for Thomas in 11th place among 1B.
In 2009 Ortiz was awful against the Angels in the Sox ALDS loss, managing just one hit in a dozen trips to the plate. Surely there should be no extra credit here.
We continue to remove very little fake WAR credit from Ortiz, so he still remains #11, just ahead of the Big Hurt.
Ortiz was decent in 2005. He homered in twelve trips against the White Sox, but Boston was obliterated in three straight. With a .333/.333/.750 line, it’s not like Ortiz wasn’t good. He was. But there’s nobody who counts 2005 among the reasons Papi deserves a plaque. Just nobody.
Removing the 2005 playoffs from Ortiz’ WAR total drops him behind Frank Thomas. He’s now in 12th place, ahead of Johnny Mize, Ernie Banks, George Sisler, and Jim Thome.
With our next step, Ortiz fans run into a problem. We have to basically eliminate 2008. We just have to. Boston won the ALDS in four games against the Angels, but Papi drove in just one run in the four games. It was a tack-on run in the ninth inning of a 4-1 Sox win in the first game. That’s not exactly clutch.
The Sox lost the ALCS in their next series against the Rays, and Ortiz stunk, hitting .154/.313/.385 in the seven-game barn burner. He homered once, drove in four runs, and struck out in more than a third of his at-bats. But let’s still see if we can give him some extra credit for clutch-iness.
In their victory in Game 1, Ortiz went 0-3 with neither a run scored nor a run driven in. The next night he drew three walks, but he didn’t have a hit, and the Sox lost 9-8 in 11 innings. No extra credit there, right? As the ALCS shifted back to Boston, Papi was again hitless as the Sox got clobbered 9-1. Backs nearly against the wall, Papi finally posted a hit, but the Sox lost 13-4 to go down 3-1.
Ortiz and the Sox know how to play down 3-1 though. And the next night it looked like some of the 2004 pixie dust might be left over. They trailed 7-0 going into the bottom of the seventh. Ortiz only had one hit in this game, but it was a three-run shot against Grant Balfour to help make it 7-4 after seven. With a chance to win it in the ninth, Ortiz struck out. Three batters later, J.D. Drew hit a walk-off single, and the Sox lived to see another day. This was a great comeback, no doubt, but it’s really hard to give Ortiz a ton of credit when he hit a homer down 7-1 in the game and 3-1 in the series. It seemed like a big hit only because of what his teammates did after him. Shifting back to Tampa, Papi had a nice contribution in Game 6. He drove in the final run in a contest the Sox won 4-2. It was a nice hit, but it was just a tack-on run after Jason Varitek homered earlier in the inning. Ortiz and Sox bats were quiet the next night. Tampa went to the World Series with a 3-1 victory.
Folks aren’t using these Series to get Ortiz into the Hall, right? Rather than 10X, let’s give Papi extra credit only at the equivalent to his regular season performance. Remember, this is something he’s getting that nobody else in the game’s history does, so it’s still a plus.
Once we make this reduction, Ortiz falls behind Johnny Mize. At this point, he’s 13th best 1B ever, ahead of Banks, Sisler, Thome, Rafael Palmeiro, and Keith Hernandez, all by 1.3 or fewer MAPES points.
Next let’s look at 2003. Boston beat Oakland in the ALDS 3-2 despite Ortiz hitting only .095/.174/.143. Surely we can’t give much extra credit for that series even though Ortiz had the key hit to bring the Sox back from 4-3 down in the eighth inning of Game 4. It was a huge hit, but it was an awful ALDS. Let’s say for an .095/.174/.143 series we give his PAs 2X the value of the regular season, at his regular season rate for this ALDS.
Ortiz now drops behind Sisler. He’s 14th in history. Thome, Palmeiro, Hernandez, and McCovey are all within 0.90 MAPES points.
The Red Sox lost the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees when Aaron Boone hit his dramatic homer against Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of Game 7. It was an extraordinary series, no doubt. And Ortiz played well in it, hitting .269/.367/.538. Of course, that was still less than his .288/.369/.592 line during the regular season.
Ortiz homered in Game 1, a 5-2 victory. Extra credit? Sure. But the Sox would have won the game without him. The Sox lost Game 2, and Ortiz did nothing. Same for Game 3. They won Game 4 despite no hits and two whiffs in three trips to the plate for Ortiz. They lost Game 5 when Ortiz had two harmless hits. With their backs to the wall in Game 6, down 6-4 in the seventh, Boston rallied. Ortiz singled in the tying run in the seventh. Nice game, no huge clutch moment. In the final game, Ortiz hit a solo homer against David Wells in the 8th inning to give Boston a three-run lead, 5-2. He hit a two-out double in the 10th but was stranded when Kevin Millar popped to Derek Jeter. Overall, I’d say this series was pretty clutch even though the Sox didn’t win. Ten times the PA value? I don’t know. I mean, Boston lost, and Ortiz wasn’t great. Let’s just give him 7X the PA value for this ALCS. That’s still a tremendous amount of extra credit for a series Boston lost.
This is where Papi begins to slip a little more. Sisler and Thome pull ahead. He’s now 15th in history at 1B. He’s only a quarter of a MAPES point up on Palmeiro and Hernandez. Willie McCovey and Hank Greenberg are now pretty close.
2004 and 2007
These years represent the first two titles that Ortiz helped bring to Boston. In this experiment, he’s going to get full extra credit for his amazing performance throughout the playoffs in 2004 and 2007. Changing seasons of 4.2 and 6.4 WAR to seasons of 8.5 and 12.5 is an absolutely huge bonus, especially when we’re giving no bonus to any other hitter in baseball history. But rather than straight 10X per playoff PA, let’s take a more granular approach to these seasons. Let’s give every ALDS PA 5X the regular season value, every ALCS PA 10X the value, and every WS PA 15X the value.
Doing this yields a smarter number, I think, but one that’s worse for Ortiz in 2004. His 4.2 WAR season that we initially made into an 8.5 WAR campaign is now reduced to 7.5 WAR. Overall, this drops Papi behind both Palmeiro and Hernandez into 17th ever. McCovey and Greenberg are now quite easily within striking distance. And Eddie Murray, Dick Allen, and Bill Terry follow close behind. Once Terry passes Ortiz, it’s only Mark McGwire in the HoME. So Ortiz is nearing the danger zone.
Luckily for Ortiz, the breakdown of 2007 actually helps him. With a 5X ALDS, a 10X ALCS, and a 15X WS, his 2007 is no longer worth 6.4 WAR. Nor is it worth 12.5 WAR. It’s now worth 12.7 WAR. Still, Ortiz remains in 17th place, ahead of Palmeiro and Hernandez.
There’s one season left to adjust, 2013. This one isn’t so easy. Ortiz was amazing in both the ALDS and the WS. But he only had two hits in the ALCS, batting .091/.200/.227. They got to the World Series in spite of Ortiz, not because of him. Even so, there was another wonderfully clutch moment in that series. Down 1-0 in the Series and 5-1 in the game, Ortiz hit a grand slam off Joaquin Benoit with two outs in the 8th inning to tie things up in advance of the Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s ninth inning single to win it. That hit aside, Ortiz had only one single, no runs scored, and no runs batted in throughout the rest of the ALCS. We just can’t give him 10X regular season credit for this work. We can’t. So what I’m going to do is put both the ALDS and ALCS work at 5X, while leaving the World Series at 15X.
This change brings Papi’s 2013 WAR from 4.4, to 9.4, to 8.7. We’re still giving him an insane amount of extra credit, I think. This decrease moves Ortiz behind McCovey into 18th place among 1B.
The full MAPES rundown looks like this:
- Jim Thome, 54.4
- Rafael Palmeiro, 54.3
- Keith Hernandez, 54.1
- Willie McCovey, 53.3
- David Ortiz, 53.1 (with lots of playoff adjustment)
- Hank Greenberg, 52.7
- Miguel Cabrera, 52.0
- Eddie Murray, 51.7
- Dick Allen, 51.6
- Bill Terry, 50.3
- Jack Beckley, 48.6 (not in the HoME)
- Mark McGwire, 47.8
- David Ortiz, 39.2 (without adjustment)
As you can see above, there’s a lot of space between Ortiz and McGwire with Papi’s adjustments. And there are a lot of players who would need to jump over Papi to keep Ortiz out of the HoME (if we were to offer these bonuses). Let’s see.
Hank Greenberg posted a .318/.420/.624 line in four World Series. He homered five times and drove in 22 runs. Given the tiny difference between Ortiz and Greenberg, it’s quite safe to say that with extra credit similar to Ortiz, Greenberg would pass him.
Miguel Cabrera isn’t eligible yet, so he doesn’t really count. Still, 13 HR and 38 RBI in the playoffs suggest some extra credit going to him too. I can’t imagine he wouldn’t pass Ortiz with extra playoff credit.
Eddie Murray homered twice in Baltimore’s close-out win in the 1983 World Series against the Phillies. He hit .400/.500./467 in an ALDS win in 1996. And overall he homered nine times to go with 21 R and 25 RBI in the playoffs. With extra credit anything like Ortiz got, Murray would forge ahead of Papi.
Dick Allen wouldn’t though. He made the playoffs only once, at the end of his career, in 1976 with Philadelphia. Though he put up a .417 OBP, his Phillies were swept by the Big Red Machine. Bill Terry would probably jump ahead of Ortiz with extra credit. It’s possible that Mark McGwire wouldn’t.
And there you have it, right? Ortiz is ahead of Allen and maybe McGwire. That’s enough. With extra playoff credit, he deserves to be in the HoME, right?
Not so fast.
There are another dozen first basemen between Ortiz, without extra credit, and McGwire. Might any of them earn enough extra credit to stay ahead of Ortiz? We’d only need two such guys to keep Ortiz out.
Fred McGriff put up a .303/.385/.532 line to go with 10 HR and 37 RBI in the playoffs. He homered four times with Atlanta in 1995, the only time their NL East juggernaut ever won it all. There must be some extra credit in that year. Norm Cash was excellent in a 1968 World Series win with a .385/.433/.500 line. That’s worth some extra credit too. Gil Hodges has two rings. He hit .292/.357/.417 in a 1955 win, and he backed that up with .391/.417/.609 four years later. Extra credit. Tony Perez also has two rings, and he homered three times in the 1975 World Series. Extra credit. Frank Chance has two rings, and he hit .300/.402/.371 with ten steals in his October career. Extra credit. John Olerud has two rings too. He has 35 R, 9 HR, and 34 RBI in his playoff career. Extra credit.
I’m not going to go through each of these players as I did for Ortiz. I think I know the result. They’re all less impressive than Ortiz in the playoffs, but more than a couple of McGwire, McGriff, Cash, Hodges, Perez, Chance, and Olerud could jump ahead of Papi if we offered them extra credit in the way we did for Ortiz.
So the only way Ortiz would really deserve to go to the Hall of Fame is if we give him tremendous amounts of extra credit for his playoff exploits but don’t similarly offer extra credit to his 1B competitors. I’m twisting it a lot, but there’s no good way to justify David Ortiz as a HoMEr. Sorry, Papi.