David Ortiz has been, without a doubt, the best Red Sox hitter of the last ten years. Since joining the Red Sox in 2003, he has slashed a remarkable .290/.387/.567, going from a signing off the scrap heap to one of the best hitters in baseball and among the best designated hitters of all time. And as the years pile up for the now 38 year old Ortiz, he is becoming not only one of the best hitters of the generation, he is also turning into one of the best hitters in Red Sox history.
Last night, Ortiz’s two home run, three RBI night put Big Papi up over the 30 home run/100 RBI plateau, the eighth time that he has done so in a Red Sox uniform. In reaching that eighth 30/100 mark, Ortiz passed Ted Williams for the most 30/100 seasons in Red Sox history, an impressive feat without doubt.
Passing Williams for the record of most 30/100 seasons certainly doesn’t mean that Ortiz is a superior hitter to Williams, who is frequently referred to as the best hitter of all time and slashed .344/.482/.634 over his 19-year career spent entirely in Boston. However, it does raise the question of where Ortiz fits among Red Sox greats.
And after looking through the all-time offensive statistics of the Boston Red Sox, Ted Williams is the only player who definitely ranks before Ortiz in terms of pure hitting. Big Papi is fourth all-time in OPS on the Red Sox, but aside from Williams, the players who ahead of him (Jimmie Foxx and Manny Ramirez) both played significantly fewer games than Ortiz as their 887 and 1083 games, respectively, pale in comparison to Papi’s 1654.
Behind Ortiz, the next-best player in terms of OPS that has played a similar amount of games as Ortiz is Wade Boggs, who slashed .338/.428/.462, reaching base at a much higher rate than Ortiz, but also with significantly less power. There’s also Jim Rice (.298/.352/.502 in 2089 games), Dwight Evans (.272/.369/.473 in 2505 games), and Carl Yastrzemski (.285/.379/.462 in 3308 games) but none of them have achieved the same sustained dominance as Ortiz has, although it’s worth noting that they all played at least a few seasons longer than Big Papi (and more than a few in the case of Yaz).
With that being said, it’s not crazy to consider Ortiz the second-best hitter in Red Sox history (read: hitter, not player). Even at age 38, Ortiz is still rolling along, slashing .264/.357/.517, a better mark than many of the afore-mentioned players’ career numbers. Ortiz has had a remarkable career for the Red Sox, and while his eighth 30/100 season is just another chapter for him, it puts things in perspective as to just how highly Ortiz ranks among Red Sox greats.