You may have heard this — especially if you’re the type of person who reads our site — but on Saturday, David Ortiz hit his 500th home run. Here is visual proof, were you to require it.
Ortiz is the fifth player to wear the red and navy of the Sox to hit 500 or more homers, as he joins Babe Ruth, Manny Ramirez, Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams. Of those five, only Ruth hit his 500th homer with a different ballclub (and you know which one that is).
Given that Ortiz hit 58 homers with the Twins before coming over to the Sox, it seems very unlikely that he’ll pass Teddy Ballgame’s record of 521 dingers with the Red Sox. Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that given Double X’s and Manny’s journeyman ways, Ortiz will go in the record as the second-greatest home run hitter in Boston’s history.
There’s a reasonable chance that if Ortiz plays a full season in 2016, he’ll continue to climb up the all-time dinger leaderboard with alacrity. My best guess is that he finishes his career with about 530 homers, right around 19th place all-time and smack-dab between Foxx and Williams on the career home run list.
It took Ortiz 19 seasons to top the 500 HR list, and while that’s hardly chopped liver, Ortiz didn’t necessarily reach this plateau at a lightning pace. While many of the players ahead of Ortiz on the all-time list put in two decades or more, they also hit more homers than Ortiz, and hit the plateau a good bit before their 19th season. Heck, Albert Pujols is sitting at 555 homers and he’s only played 15 seasons thus far. In any case, it seems to be the seasonal number that most directly indicates a player’s ability to pass 500 homers. Like Papi, most hitters with 500 or more homers put in about two decades worth of time in the big leagues.
(So, for the record, if you’re looking for current young players who could conceivably reach that 500 homer plateau, I’d stay away from 23-year-old Kris Bryant — despite his SpaceX power — and put my money on, well, you know who.)
When you compare Ortiz’s plate appearances to other members of the 500-homer club, then we get to the interesting stuff. By looking at each player’s total career home runs and their total career appearances, we get a little bit of a better clue as to which hitters were the more prolific home run hitters based on frequency.
Ortiz scores a little better by this metric, as you can see the complete (and enormous) table below.
|Ken Griffey Jr.||630||11304||0.055732484||5.573248408|
If you take a long look, you’ll see that Ortiz has hit homers at a proportional rate that’s better than 10 other members of the 500 Club. That’s not too shabby at all, even if you take into account that — at some point — Papi’s HR frequency is bound to slow to a crawl as he hits the point in his career where Father Time robs him of his efficacy. Then again, at this rate of decline, that may be during Ortiz’s age-47 season.
You may also notice that Ortiz also matches up nicely on the homer-per-plate-appearance basis with the greatest hitter in Sox history, Ted Williams. While no one would dare claim that the two Boston legends are of equal stature, it sure is nice to see the two paired together.
The debate as to whether or not Ortiz is a Hall of Famer is best left to others, as my opinion on the matter holds little weight. But what is not up for discussion is that Ortiz has placed himself in the upper echelon of big league home run hitters the way most of the players on the 500-dinger list have: by pairing a great HR/PA rate with uncommon longevity. I’d imagine that Ortiz ends his career with a very similar home run profile to another physically imposing slugger with charisma to spare: Reggie Jackson.
… in fact, this comparison carries even more weight when you compare the two clutch superstars and their postseason heroics. For the record (and from FanGraphs):
That’s just a little fun playoff data that ties these two monster sluggers together beyond just their propensity for hitting long, authoritative dingers once every 20 plate appearances.
In a season where Sox fans have to take joy in small things in order to glaze over the pain of being out of contention, this is a pretty sizeable event to get excited about. David Ortiz hit a “magic” milestone, one of those numbers that holds a special place in baseball history, and finally took his place among the great consistent sluggers in the game’s history.
Photo by Adam Hamari/USA Today Sports Images