Today on ESPN Insider, Jason Grey examines six players who have made adjustments to their game this season and seen their performances improve. Using the ZiPS projection system, we look at these players from a statistical standpoint and project how their 2011 improvements change their long-term performance outlook. All performances assume the same home park and league offense between 2010's and 2011's levels.
At the end of May 2009, David Ortiz's .185/.284/.287 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) line resulted in scads of newspaper articles declaring his career dead and buried and advocating that the Red Sox bench or even release Ortiz. The rumors of his demise proved to be false, and Ortiz rebounded to a .238/.332/.462 line thanks to a .258/.350/.516 second half.
Ortiz further bounced back to .270/.370/.529 last season, and this year, despite being 35 years old, he has improved to a .295/.381/.548 line that is actually better than his career averages once you take into consideration how much league offense has dropped.
Even more notably, Ortiz's K/BB ratio has returned to the nearly 1:1 range found in his 2005-07 prime, with his strikeout rate dropping almost in half from last year. A career .261/.336/.470 hitter against lefties, Ortiz has managed a .314/.420/.562 line against them this year.
Going into the 2011 season, Ortiz was projected by ZiPS to have 3.6 wins above replacement in each season from 2012 to 2014. That number has improved to 5.0 WAR with a .257/.343/.492 line and 71 homers in the next three years. Ortiz is still likely to decline but has improved his baseline enough that he probably won't have to beg for a one-year contract.