Is David Ortiz a Future Hall of Famer?
Since the designated hitter rule was instituted by the American League before the 1973 season, it has been extremely difficult for these men with no gloves, these men who come to the ballpark with nothing more than shin guards, Louisville Sluggers and a smile, to warrant serious consideration for the Hall of Fame.
You see, there are three facets to this game. You pitch the ball, you catch the ball and you hit the ball. Designated hitters only do one of those things, and Hall of Fame voters have long had a difficult time enshrining them in Cooperstown because of their one-dimentionality. And yes, I just made up a word.
But over the weekend, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz joined some elite company.
— MLB (@MLB) September 13, 2015
Ortiz became the 27th player in Major League history to reach the 500 homer plateau, exclusive company to be sure. It's company that usually means a ticket to the Hall of Fame. But because he is a designated hitter, that admission is not automatic. It was just last year that Chicago White Sox legend Frank Thomas became the first designated hitter to be elected to the Hall. Prior to that, no player who was primarily a designated hitter during their playing days had ever been admitted.
Big Papi is looking to be the second, and his career numbers indicate his case appears strong.
Only Thomas has more career homers as a designated hitter than Ortiz, and the next closest, Harold Baines, is 116 dingers behind. Ortiz has more doubles than any other designated hitter and the second-most RBI as well. Perhaps the only other player on this list you could argue should be in the Hall of Fame is Edgar Martinez, who finished with a .312 career batting average and an OPS of .933, second only to Thomas.
But not only is Ortiz putting up some crazy numbers among the designated hitter ranks -- he's also having one of the best "old guy" seasons in baseball history.
The table above shows the best power seasons by any player in an age-39 season or later. Ortiz' 34 homers are tied for fourth-most in an age 39 season or older, trailing Steve Finley's 36, Hank Aaron's 40 and Barry Bonds' 45, all in their age 39 seasons as well.
This year, Ortiz is batting .275/.361/.556 with a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .380 and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 139. His 34 long balls are eighth in the American League, his 95 RBI are sixth, as is his OPS of .917, with an fWAR of 2.6 that is fourth among designated hitters.
I understand the bar must be set higher for designated hitters to be included in the Hall of Fame. Defense is a vital component to playing baseball, and players who are unable to field a position well enough to do it at least half the time should be penalized for that.
But given his ridiculous career numbers and his effectiveness so deep into his career, one would think Ortiz should join Thomas as the only true designated hitters to enter Cooperstown.