No matter how you felt about Derek Jeter—and informally it seems Red Sox fans at very least respected him—he appeared to be a player who retired two seasons too late. Jeter’s final year’s performance in 2014 was a mere shadow of his former self, leaving the Yankees in the uncomfortable position of wondering whether their captain was the right man to play in what would be the club’s second consecutive 2nd place finish.
Fortunately, David Ortiz will not finish his career the same way. Fans will remember, likely for the rest of their lives, the thrill of watching him play, and especially in this final season.
Final seasons are not always expected. Sometimes they happen by accident, injury, or even sanction. That’s not the case for Ortiz, however, who will end his baseball career on his own terms, with a sparkling 2016 season that is leaving its marks, again and again, in the history books.
Players In Their Last Season
When it comes to plate appearances (649), at-bats (570), hits (218), doubles (42), triples (20), extra-base hits (74), runs scored (105), RBI (121), and AVG (.382), no player had a better last season than Shoeless Joe Jackson. That was probably no great consolation to Jackson, who was driven from the game by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis following the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. Jackson, 32 years old at the time, remains to this day on MLB’s Ineligible List, despite several attempts to rescind Landis’ ban.
As of this writing, with 11 games to go this season, among players in their final seasons, Ortiz has already eclipsed Jackson’s all-time records for doubles (47) and extra-base hits (87), and has tied Jackson’s record for RBI (121).
But juxtaposing Ortiz to Jackson, a player eight years younger and arguably in the prime of his career, seems a tainted comparison.
Excluding Jackson from the analysis (and, for that matter 28-year-old Happy Felsch, who was similarly banned after the scandal), here is how Big Papi compares to other major league players in their final seasons.
- Until Tuesday when Ortiz connected for his 36th home run of the season, no major league player had more HRs in a final season than the Athletics Dave Kingman, whose 35 round-trippers had been the full-season high water mark since 1986.
- Needs 11 to tie his mentor, the Twins’ Kirby Puckett, with 169 hits, the most of any player in their final season.
- Needs eight to tie the Philadelphia Atletics’ George Puccinelli‘s 1936 record of 83 runs scored.
- Currently has the 2nd best SLG (.634) for a player in his last season after Ted Williams (.645), together the only players ever with a .600+ on-base percentage in their final year.
- Currently has the 3rd best OPS (1.037) for a player in his last season after Williams (1.096 in 1960) and Barry Bonds (1.045 in 2007).
- Currently has the 2nd best Isolated Power rating (.316) for a player in his last season after Williams (.329), again representing the only players ever with a .300+ ISO in their final year.
- Currently owns the best Wins Above Replacement rating (4.9) of any player in his final season, edging out Roberto Clemente, who’s life was tragically cut short in 1972, at age 38.