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David Ortiz is having the best season in history by a 35+ year old DH

Posted by Andy on September 6, 2011

David Ortiz has been one of my favorite targets in the past, so it's only fair to say it now: he's having the best season ever by a designated hitter at least 35 years old. Aside from being quite consistent this year, his OPS+ ranks tops among DH's who qualified for the batting title in their Age 35 season or later:

Rk Player OPS+ Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 David Ortiz 162 2011 35 BOS 125 515 447 73 140 35 1 28 89 66 69 .313 .402 .584 .986 *D/3
2 Edgar Martinez 160 2001 38 SEA 132 581 470 80 144 40 1 23 116 93 90 .306 .423 .543 .966 *D/3
3 Edgar Martinez 158 1998 35 SEA 154 672 556 86 179 46 1 29 102 106 96 .322 .429 .565 .993 *D/3
4 Edgar Martinez 157 2000 37 SEA 153 665 556 100 180 31 0 37 145 96 95 .324 .423 .579 1.002 *D/3
5 Jim Thome 155 2006 35 CHW 143 610 490 108 141 26 0 42 109 107 147 .288 .416 .598 1.014 *D/3
6 Edgar Martinez 152 1999 36 SEA 142 608 502 86 169 35 1 24 86 97 99 .337 .447 .554 1.001 *D/3
7 Jim Thome 150 2007 36 CHW 130 536 432 79 119 19 0 35 96 95 134 .275 .410 .563 .973 *D/3
8 Frank Robinson 150 1973 37 CAL 147 630 534 85 142 29 0 30 97 82 93 .266 .372 .489 .861 *D7
9 Jason Giambi 148 2006 35 NYY 139 579 446 92 113 25 0 37 113 110 106 .253 .413 .558 .971 *D3
10 Hal McRae 147 1982 36 KCR 159 676 613 91 189 46 8 27 133 55 61 .308 .369 .542 .910 *D/7
11 Frank Thomas 146 2003 35 CHW 153 662 546 87 146 35 0 42 105 100 115 .267 .390 .562 .952 *D3
12 Chili Davis 146 1995 35 CAL 119 522 424 81 135 23 0 20 86 89 79 .318 .429 .514 .943 *D
13 Paul Molitor 143 1993 36 TOR 160 725 636 121 211 37 5 22 111 77 71 .332 .402 .509 .911 *D3
14 Rico Carty 143 1976 36 CLE 152 628 552 67 171 34 0 13 83 67 45 .310 .379 .442 .821 *D3/7
15 Harold Baines 142 1995 36 BAL 127 459 385 60 115 19 1 24 63 70 45 .299 .403 .540 .943 *D
16 Edgar Martinez 141 2003 40 SEA 145 603 497 72 146 25 0 24 98 92 95 .294 .406 .489 .895 *D
17 Frank Robinson 141 1974 38 TOT 144 579 477 81 117 27 3 22 68 85 95 .245 .367 .453 .820 *D/37
18 Frank Thomas 140 2006 38 OAK 137 559 466 77 126 11 0 39 114 81 81 .270 .381 .545 .926 *D
19 Ellis Burks 139 2002 37 CLE 138 570 518 92 156 28 0 32 91 44 108 .301 .362 .541 .903 *D/7
20 Paul Molitor 139 1992 35 MIL 158 700 609 89 195 36 7 12 89 73 66 .320 .389 .461 .851 *D3
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2011.

47 Responses to “David Ortiz is having the best season in history by a 35+ year old DH”

  1. Johnny Twisto Says:

    My first question was, how many DHs have there been at those ages?

    I don't know what threshold Andy set, but I looked for seasons with at least 50% games at DH. My top 20 results match his, so I'll guess he used that. There have been 99 such player-seasons. Median OPS+ is 119. Half the group was 35 or 36. The oldest was Yaz, age 42 in '82.

  2. BSK Says:


    I haven't specifically seen Ortiz as a target of yours. How and why?

  3. DavidRF Says:

    Thome was 182 last year, but in only 340 PA.

    I've never been a fan of "DH-only" lists. Feels like giving a guy a bonus for not playing in the field. (Fun, though)

  4. jason Says:

    look at ortiz's k's for this season. isn't he a 150 k guy usually? doesn't he normally have 120 by now?

  5. Jason461 Says:

    This is a neat list, but that's a heck of a logjam at the top there. I don't know if 2 pts of OPS+ really screams "best" to me as much as it screams "probably the same." Again, neat list, I just like qualifiers.

  6. josh blue Says:


    last two seasons were 134 and 145, but that was mainly due to his wrist injuries. last year in paticular, he had trouble catching up with inside hear

    from 2003-2009, he averaged 110 k's a season

  7. Andy Says:

    BSK, I picked on him in previous seasons. I bet the 'related posts' links to some of them.

  8. Mike L Says:

    I think that the only appropriate response is for Theo to sign him to a contract that matches in duration and dollars A-Rod's.

  9. Sid Porter Says:

    Big Slapi is back on the juice.

  10. Doug Says:

    Edgar Martinez made this list every season after age 35, except his last year at 41, and his age 39 season when he had only 407 PAs (but had 139 OPS+, which would have made this list).

    I was at a preseason game in Vancouver years ago when thrid-baseman Edgar twisted his ankle (or some such injury) on the worn, crappy turf there (now, they've got the new, high-tech stuff). Seemed like he never fully recovered from that, hence the move to DH. Obviously, it worked out for him and the Mariners.

  11. Chuck Says:

    Who cares?

  12. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    Thome from age 35 to 40, has an OPS+ of 140, but a point or two higher if you pull his LAD pinch hit stint/joke and a few games here and there played at first that I was to lazy to pull out. Good for second.
    Edgar had a 152 OPS+ from ages 35-40. He hung around a season too long, and it brought down his OPS+ 8 points to 142.

  13. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    Bigger question Chuckโ€ฆ
    Who cares about who cares?
    And who will care for guys like that.
    God bless your wife.

  14. josh blue Says:

    #9 & #11: traumitized yankee fans?

  15. Jimbo Says:

    Big game tonight those numbers went way up.

  16. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    David Ortiz has been one of my favorite targets in the past. . .

    Related posts:

    . . .

    The end of the road for David Ortiz

    Aha. Pretty clear now why Ortiz is experiencing so much success. Andy said he was "done."

  17. -mark Says:

    @15 .. He sure did, but what a silly game!

    Just noticed the game scores of the winner (Lester: 81) and loser (Perez: 5). Makes for a differential of 76. I wonder what the biggest one of those floating around is...

  18. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    Maybe he found Batlantis.

  19. Jimmer Says:


    I'd start with the 1912 Tigers strike game. Coombs 61, Travers -52, for a difference of 113.

  20. Doug Says:

    @17, @19.

    Or, how about the lowest combined game score when one (or both) pitchers tosses a complete game.

    Maybe this game with a total game score of 3:

    Oral Hildebrand of the Browns goes the distance for a game score of 11, beating Vern Kennedy of the ChiSox with a game score of -8 over 4.1 innings.

    I also like this one.

    Elam Vangilder of the Tigers goes the distance to beat the Yankees, but his game score of 13 is bested by his mound opponent, Tom Zachary, with a score of 17, despite facing 11 batters in only two-thirds of an inning.

  21. Roger Says:

    This is great. I'm hoping he'll now have time to release the results of his investigation. He's been strangely silent on it, but I'm sure his people have cracked the case and we can look forward to a press conference where he suddenly can speak better english and where he'll be surrounded by Bud Selig, George Mitchell, Peter Gammons and every ESPN on-air personality.

  22. Andy Says:

    KT, that's a fair dig, but please also go back and find all the posts I've written where I was correct, and comment on those too.

  23. kilroy Says:

    That's weird, everyone of these players is in the American League.

  24. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    Does anybody here know how Mike Jacobs was caught using HGH?
    Was it a simple urine test? Did they draw blood? Does the player's union allow for unprovoked blood drawing? I'd think not. Also, many PEDs are not detected directly, but the urine sample usually contains tell tale chemicals that are produced because of the certain PED, is this the case for HGH?
    I was just wondering, because I thought I remembered reading they had not set on a definitive test, not even the anti-doping agencies used by the Olympics and the Tour de France.
    I know once you stop using PEDs their is a drop off, which would explain Ortiz's down year, then the body begins to generate its own testosterone after a year or so, but it rarely returns to past levels, and it certainly does not return to past levels at the age of 35, especially after using the PEDs he was accused of.
    There are several 'clean ways' to boost ones own testosterone levels. Right now there is even a FLOWMAX/SIMBALTA type commercial floating around aimed at 40ish men, claiming enhanced testosterone levels. That and a extremely high protein diet, hard, exhaustive - complete body exercises done at max weight (like dead-lifts, leg-presses) that while exhausting, force the body out of necessity to produce more natural 'growth' chemicals.
    Just wondering out loud how David has returned to form after several down years, making the 'list' and the rigorous testing done today.

  25. therookie300 Says:

    @ #24

    Could it be that his wrist injury has finally healed?

  26. wendell Says:

    Best season ever? If all you go by is OPS. Look at Martinez in 200 and Thome in 2006. Much better if you consider other stats but probably the best is Molitor in 1993.

  27. Johnny Twisto Says:

    please also go back and find all the posts I've written where I was correct

    Shouldn't take long.


  28. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    KT, that's a fair dig, but please also go back and find all the posts I've written where I was correct, and comment on those too.

    [*yawns, stretches*]

    No chance. I'd rather just kibitz. (-;รพ I look forward to each new entry you post with the "____ is/are done" theme, Andy, and I'm sure many others do too. Still, you've got to know it's gonna get you some teasin'.

  29. John Says:

    Ortiz has spoken of "waiting for his pitch to hit" this year. I find it almost laughable, because he's thirty-freakin-five and a former perennial MVP contender.

    And yet, Jason (#4) is absolutely right: he has drastically cut down his strikeout rate this year. 2009-10 were the two worst years of his full-time career with the K rate (21.4% and 23.9%, while going over 18% only one other time in Boston). This season, a career-best 13.4%.

  30. Santiago Says:

    Molitor by far....OPS is soooo over rated

  31. Paul E Says:

    I may be old, yeah, I am old. But just curious where Molitor, Winfield, Thome, Eddie Murray, Reggie Jackson, Edgar Martinez, Yaz, even Biggie Frank end up on career accumulation lists without the DH.

    Prior to 1973, a lot of guys - even Hall of Famers 33 years of age and up, ste=arted to take a day or two per week off. Do Murray, Winfield, Palmeiro, Brett, Molitor get to 3000 hits?
    Murray, Jackson, Thome, Manny, or Palmeiro reach 500 HR's?

  32. Rich Says:

    I hate when people get carried away when a guy has a great season to say "Steroids!" but in this case, I don't care. We KNOW he used PEDs before, so why should we think he isn't on any now?

  33. Paul E Says:

    Amongst players with 75% of games played at DH, Paul Molitor's 1993 season clocks in at 5.7 WAR (including a -0.1 dWAR for 23 games at 1B).

  34. Jimbo Says:



  35. Mike L Says:

    @32, Rich, et. al. Ortiz is going to be one of the great unsolved puzzles of the steroids era. He has six years and 1700 plate appearances of an OPS+of 107 for the Twins. Then he goes to Boston and hits like a maniac for five years, right in the middle of the steroids era, then drops back to the performance level he had in Minn. (far earlier than mere age would suggest), then surges again. He's failed one steroids test (that we know of). And, of the failures or even those just suspected, he's the only guy that both MLB and the MLBPA come rushing to defend. MLB even uses him in charity work. Every other slugger/user, whether they were the surly Barry Bonds, the disliked A-Rod, the comical Manny, or the previously admired Palmiero or McGwire, is tossed on the scrap heap of official and public contempt. Not Ortiz. Why? What's special about Ortiz that MLB supports him so openly. Is it an undisclosed flaw in the testing? Is it that his 2003 results showed something other than an officially banned substance? There's no evidence that's exonerated him and there is evidence he used. Why is David Ortiz treated differently than everyone else?

  36. Doug B Says:

    "it's only fair to say it now: he's having the best season ever by a designated hitter at least 35 years old."

    Wins Above Replacement

    Edgar Martinez 2000 = +6.1
    Paul Molitor 1992 = +5.8
    Paul Molitor: 1993 = +5.7
    Edgar Martinez 2001 = +5.6
    Edgar Martinez 2001 = +5.2
    Frank Robinson 1973 = +4.5
    Jason Giambi 2006 = +4.1
    Hal McRae 1982 = +4.0
    David Ortiz 2011 = +3.9

  37. Andy Says:

    By the end of the season, Ortiz might rank in the the top 5 on that WAR list.

    But somewhere Kahuna Tuna is snickering as this post does have its sensationalistic elements...

  38. Jason Camp Says:

    Fair to bring up steroids with Ortiz. Just like A-Rod and the biggest fraud of them all, Mr. Barry Bonds.

  39. Doug B Says:

    "By the end of the season, Ortiz might rank in the the top 5 on that WAR list."

    Now THERE is a catchy article headline!"

    But it's more accurate.


  40. Doug B Says:

    of course Barry Bonds won 4 straight MVP's while over age 35 essentially playing DH by standing out in left field for 120 games.

  41. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Worst OPS+ among DH's who qualified for the batting title in their age-35 season or later:

    Scott Hatteberg, age 35, 2005 A's: 523 PA, 81 OPS+
    Dave Parker, age 40, 1991 Angels (501 PA, 76 OPS+) and Blue Jays (40 PA, 130 OPS+): 541 PA, 81 OPS+

    somewhere Kahuna Tuna is snickering as this post does have its sensationalistic elements...

    Nahhh. Sensationalistic is "He done โ€” fork stab!" "He might rank in the top five by season's end"? A comment like that is a model of restraint and perspicacity.

  42. DavidRF Says:

    But he didn't just stand there. His fielding metrics were only negative in 2001. His dWAR was actually positive for the four year period. His fielding didn't really go completely south until his last season.

    Interesting question would be how many batters of any position can top OPS+ of 162 at 35+. By my count, that's happened 31 times before.

    Barry Bonds (5) 2000-2004
    Babe Ruth (4) 1930-33
    Ted Williams (4) 1954,1956-58
    Hank Aaron (2) 1969,1971
    Chipper Jones (2) 2007-2008
    Tris Speaker (2) 1923,1925
    Ty Cobb (2) 1922,1925
    Cap Anson 1888
    Bob Johnson 1944
    Honus Wagner 1909
    Lefty O'Doul 1932
    Manny Ramirez 2008
    Mark McGwire 1999
    Nap Lajoie 1910
    Sam Thompson 1895
    Stan Musial 1957
    Zack Wheat 1924

    ... of course, Ortiz after yesterday is up to 165 now, but I won't redo my search.

  43. TheGoof Says:

    He's the only 35-plus guy on the list since the DH itself turned 35.

  44. Mike Felber Says:

    DavidRF, that list is incomplete. A quick look shows Aaron also qualifying in '73. And though only 390 PA just before the expanded schedule came in, in his last year & at 41, Williams equaled his lifetime OPS + of 190. By the way, I have seen several player's seasons & lifetime OPS + adjusted on this Web Site, marginally, including Williams in the latter 2 examples.

    Since this site represents WAR so strongly, a noble effort to figure out total value & has one of the main versions of it here, I will continually advocate for this:

    A separate thread that discusses all the reasons for the often large variations in distinct WAR versions, & other total player value systems. Using EXAMPLES of players who vary the most between systems over a career! So we can analyze & attempt to get closer to the truth of what are flaws & advantages in each system. Major & smaller distinct treatments of value re: walks especially, batter Ks, fielding metrics, how positional value is computed, total value of non-offense & base running, how errors & good fielding effect things, especially ERA +...

    Is anyone here satisfied that they know just why there are major differences in how good player's are over a career? And does anyone have any idea whether B-R WAR is better than other versions?

    Because I honestly have no idea which are closer to the truth, & under what circumstances which systems tend to be better. I would appreciate an open discussion amongst folks who know enough to try & suss out what factors are better or worse in reflecting real value.

  45. Scott Ross Says:

    I've never been a fan of "DH-only" lists. Feels like giving a guy a bonus for not playing in the field.

    Does anybody ever slag on AL pitchers for not hitting?

  46. Pat Says:

    WAR shows he's a ways off from best ever and I don't see him making up over 1 WAR in only 20 games. So, no, not best ever. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, PI shows Martinez at 5.7 in 2000, not 6.1. Ah, you're looking at oWAR.

  47. Mike Felber Says:

    Apropos of what I said just above, that is true if this version of WAR, B-R WAR, is accurate. I am not a reflexive naysayer about WAR due to some imperfections, like many of Dugout Central. But it ems, would be irrational to assume both that any WAR is perfect, or even if it is close, absent closer examination.

    And I have not even heard a case made about whether the WAR used here-& it should always be specified which version is being used-is more accurate than other total value systems, such as Fangraphs WAR.

    Sluggers whose main value are HRs, many time who K often-their ratings seem at large variance between systems. A Killebrew, or Stargell, likely Big Mac. And defense is another big swing. Let's examine an example of a big middle infielder rating discrepancy.

    Lou Whitaker. On this site, just about exactly at 70. I recall somewhat higher than other systems. If we were looking at just total WAR, then even the significantly lower assessment has him as high as you can get amongst unelected men! But it matters how high he is, since sweet Lou was unusually consistent: but another way to put it is he had an unimpressive peak by HOF standards.

    And I think most realize that peak value is at least as crucial in evaluating how good a player someone is as total career accomplishments. John Q. averaged best 7 years & career WAR: I might add top 3 years (may not weight it the same). At any rate, we CANNOT just throw around one WAR system as if inviolate, & not even test whether it is close! I mean, sometimes the career WAR swings are on the order of 20%!!