(Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)
by Hunter Satterthwaite
Appreciating a truly historic farewell tour.
Looking back at the 2016 baseball season, there was no shortage of iconic moments. The Cubs broke a 108-year-old streak, Rougned Odor put his own personal touches on “The Shot Heard Round the World”, as well as Jose Bautista’s face, and Dee Gordon hit baseball’s most emotional home run. But the thing that will forever be overlooked is that David Ortiz had the best farewell season, ever. In the 114 years of Major League Baseball, no player has performed quite as well in his last season as David Ortiz. He had the highest final season WAR of anyone in the history of the game, higher than the likes of Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth—combined.
Along those same historic lines, this David Ortiz season was the 3rd-highest campaign all-time in terms of WAR for players older than 40. And his slugging percentage was nearly 140 points better than the next-highest, Willie Mays in 1971. These were all remarkable ranks in comparison to older hitters, yet looking at 2016 alone also speaks to Ortiz’s sheer dominance. He led the league in doubles (48); to crack 48 doubles at age 40 is unfathomable. He was also first in slugging percentage, by 25 points. The power he consistently demonstrated at 40 is insane—he led MLB with a .308 ISO, which is a sabermetric statistic that solely measures power. He does not even fit the parameters of this table used to contextualize this stat.
In nearly every other category in 2016, such as wRC+, David Ortiz trailed only Mike Trout. Mind you, Trout was 24—in or approaching his prime—and Ortiz was 40. Through Statcast, MLB’s advanced media program, Papi’s 2016 looks just as impressive. In the statistics compiled from Statcast (below), he is the only player who appears in the top five of all three statistics during this previous season.
|Player||Average Exit Velocity|
His one downside comes on defense, which is the reason he has embraced the role of DH throughout much of his professional career. He only played five innings in the field this past year; the season before, only 60. Much like Edgar Martinez, this may be the one obstacle to his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Nevertheless, his farewell season is one that will often get overshadowed but should go down as the best final campaign in the history of Major League Baseball. Like a fine wine, he got better with age. Now, there’s just one thing left to say: Adios, Big Papi—may you enjoy retirement.