“Before” Big Papi was Clutch
Since David Ortiz hit his first playoff home-run exactly one decade ago in The Bronx off Mike Mussina there has been a popular “clutch-ness” narrative surrounding the Red Sox slugger. Is there evidence that he was “clutch” before he tagged Mussina in game one of the 2003 ALCS?
Prior to being released by the Twins in December of ’02 Ortiz had 1,500 big league at-bats. During this time David Ortiz hit one HR every 25 AB’s. That’s 455 games and parts of six seasons.
Before taking Mussina yard Ortiz had played in 14 postseason games (9 for Minnesota and 5 for Boston). In 50 at-bats during these games in ’02 & ’03 he hit zero home-runs. He posted a .231 OBP and .280 SLG. David Ortiz was clearly not a “clutch” hitter, at least not in the postseason.
We all know the story since ’03. The question is…Why wasn’t Ortiz clutch in his first 14 playoff games? Was there a mental block in the way of him hitting in the “clutch”? Was he nervous in big games? Did he shy away from the spotlight?
No, I think not.
Ortiz simply became a much better all-around hitter since coming to Boston. He has been better in the regular season with the Red Sox than he was with the Twins and he’s been better in the playoffs with the Red Sox.
Finally, in 63 playoff games with Boston he’s slugged .562. In 1514 regular season games with Boston David Ortiz slugged .572.
There is no postseason magic here. Big Papi is a really good hitter, period.