|David Ortiz takes a turn to left||05.23.11 at 2:02 pm ET|
The Red Sox knew that they were acquiring a left-handed slugger with a made-for-Fenway swing this winter when they traded for Adrian Gonzalez. Little did they know that one of the players on their roster would prove that he, too, was ready to become the same type of force at home.
As Rob Bradford detailed today, the partnership between David Ortiz and Gonzalez has yielded tremendous dividends for the Red Sox thus far this year. Gonzalez is hitting .342 with a .391 OBP, .574 slugging mark, .965 OPS, nine homers and 41 RBI. Ortiz, meanwhile, is now hitting .299 with a .373 OBP, .530 slugging mark, .903 OPS, nine homers and 22 RBI.
“We talk, and I watch the way he approaches pitching because he’s in front of me and that gives me a good idea,” Ortiz said in the story. “We talk all the time, but remember it doesn’t matter how much you talk because you still have to go out and execute.”
That said, it is fascinating to note that Ortiz is executing in a fashion that is distinct from the rest of his Red Sox career this year — at least at Fenway Park. On the road, a healthy number of Ortiz’ hits (5 of 22 — 22.7 percent) have been left of straightaway center. Still, most of his hits have either been directly up the middle or pulled.
Fenway Park has been a completely different story. Whether he’s taking his cue for Gonzalez or simply employing a different approach, Ortiz is going after the Green Monster as never before.
Of his 27 hits at Fenway Park this year, 14 have been to the left of center, most of them hits off or over the Green Monster. The fact that more than half of his hits (51.9 percent) at Fenway have been to the opposite field represents a clear departure from the rest of his Red Sox career, in which Ortiz has never had more than 37.7 percent of his hits to the opposite field.
Consider that in the 2008 season, he had just 16 hits to the left of center in the entire season (granted, one in which he missed a significant period with a wrist injury). Now, Ortiz has nearly surpassed that output in 26 home games — demonstrating an approach with which his hitting coach is thrilled.
“When David is at his best that’s what he’s doing best, reacting to the ball in and driving balls off the Monster,” said Dave Magadan.
In both 2009 and 2010, when Ortiz got off to slow starts, he worked with Magadan to emphasize using the whole field in order to turn his results around. This year, however, that approach has been in place almost from day one, with impressive results.
The Sox have never had a team with two left-handed hitters who launched 30 homers in the same year. In 2011, both Gonzalez and Ortiz are on pace to go deep 32 times — well before the weather warms up and balls start flying. It is one thing that both players are starting to exhibit similarities in approach. For the Sox, the most significant development is that the two are demonstrating some similarities of results, helping to explain why the Red Sox are leading the majors in runs (102) and runs per game (5.1) in May.
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