David Ortiz will retire at the end of this season and the Red Sox will probably miss him. Over his past 3 seasons David Ortiz has defied Father Time.
I ran a query for batters 38 years old or over and found 128 qualified seasons since 1950. When compared to Ortiz’s performance, you see how Ortiz have gotten progressively better. Ortiz have followed a non-conventional career path and his ageing curve looks skew to the right. This has not only triggered PED unsupported rumors but questions whether retirement should be postponed. While on average 38-40 years old are ~10% better than the average hitter (in part because only very good players get to accumulate enough at bats to qualify as this list is filled with Hall of Famers), Ortiz have been consistently 34%+ better, up to an insane, career best 178 wRC+ this year, which results on 2.1 Z-Score.
No player in history has had a higher ISO, OPS or wRC+ with at least 40 years old than Ortiz’s 2016 stats – a testament to bring back in 5 years when Hall of Fame conversations begin to happen and perspective allows us to ponder fairly what he did. Ortiz has been a top 10 hitter since 2009 by almost any metric and while it’d be hard to single out a root for his longevity (e.g. at bat pacing or offseason preparation), he certainly has shown us what physical and mental preparation for a high performer athlete looks like.
These are the top-22 seasons produced by 38+ years old, sorted by wRC+:
Statistics as of July 27th.
By Oswaldo Gonzalez