Just nine shy of 500 career home runs with 48 games left to play, David Ortiz has an opportunity to become the 27th player in Major League Baseball history to reach that mark before the season ends. With little to play for other than pride, this may be the only thing left for the Red Sox to champion in 2015. Having reached the required number of plate appearances this season to guarantee his return in a Boston uniform in 2016, chances are excellent that number 500 will come with the Red Sox. So how likely will it happen this year?
In franchise history, only one player, Ted Williams, has hit at least 500 home runs in a Boston uniform. Jimmie Foxx and Manny Ramirez are the only other two players to hit number 500 with the club. “Big Papi” has 433 home runs with the Red Sox, second most in team history; he hit his other 58 with the Twins over his first six seasons in baseball. Whether he can hit another 67 home runs with the Red Sox, thereby finishing with 500 in a Boston uniform, is another story for another day.
Since hitting only six home runs over the first two months of the season and 15 over the first half of the season, Ortiz has been mashing baseballs at a torrid pace. In 102 plate appearances since the All-Star break, he has batted .333 with an OBP of .412 and an OPS of 1.134; more importantly relative to the conversation, he has hit 10 home runs, which averages to 10.2 PA/HR. In the month of August alone (44 PA), he has five home runs, including two on Wednesday in Miami, which averages to 8.8 PA/HR. On the season, he has hit 25 home runs in 442 plate appearances; that averages to 17.7 PA/HR.
Ortiz has played in 91.2% (104 out of 114) of all games this season for the Red Sox; only Xander Bogaerts has appeared in more games for Boston (110). 442 plate appearances over those 104 games averages to exactly 4.25 PA/game. With 48 games left this season and opportunities to rest here and there, he would likely play in at least 44 of those games, which would give him another 187 plate appearances.
At his current August pace, he would hit another 21 home runs, which would give him 512. At his second-half pace, he would hit another 18 home runs, which would give him 509. More realistically, at his seasonal pace, he would hit at least another 10 home runs this season, which would give him 501 for his career. If he cooled considerably and reverted to his first half average of 22.7 plate appearances per home run, he would only hit another eight home runs, finishing one shy of the 500 mark.
Bottom line: barring injury or a sudden drop in performance, his chances of reaching the 500 mark by the end of the season are very, very good. All that’s left to see now is whether he does it at Fenway Park before the Sox hit the road for the final seven games of the season.