ST. LOUIS — The World Series is not decided, though the Boston Red Sox took a big step towards that with a 3-1 victory in Game 5 on Monday night.
But it would be hard to seriously dispute that the Most Valuable Player in this series has already been selected: David Ortiz. No matter who wins.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented, but it’s only happened once before: Bobby Richardson managed to win the 1960 award, even though his opposite number at second base, Bill Mazeroski, clubbed the series-winning home run. But Richardson had 11 hits and an OPS of 1.054.
David Ortiz’s 2013 World Series laughs at the paltry production from Bobby Richardson in 1960.
“Speaking of clutch hitting with David Ortiz,” David Ross said at his postgame presser, “what planet is that guy from?”
Here are the numbers for Ortiz in this world series after Monday night: 733 batting average. .750 on-base percentage. 1.267 slugging percentage. That’s good for an OPS of 2.017. His first-inning single put the Cardinals behind to start, quieted the Busch Stadium crowd. Ortiz made it feel like the Cardinals were trailing all night in a game they were in most of the way, and in a series that was tied.
His manager, John Farrell, wouldn’t put the MVP tag on him just yet.
“He’s having a great series,” Farrell said after the game. “The one thing we won’t do is get too far ahead of ourselves, whether that’s what we achieve collectively, or what any individual’s performance suggests. But he’s in a really good place, obviously.”
This absurd stat line would stand out in any series, but in a pitching-intensive battle like this one, the numbers are even more stark. On the team leading this series, Ortiz’s slugging percentage of 1.267 leads the runner-up, Xander Bogaerts, by 855 points. The Red Sox overall are at .205/.268/.317.
And while Holliday has hit well for the Cardinals, his OPS is a solid 1.000, or less than half of Ortiz’s.
Should Ortiz go hitless over the final two series games, he’s still a good bet to finish with a batting average of well above .400.
But there’s no real reason to expect he will. When Adam Wainwright got him out, finally, he looked to the sky, as if thankful for a higher power than even Ortiz. The Busch Stadium crowd roared as if Wainwright had stopped a rally. But there’d been no one on base.
I asked Ortiz if he ever remembered being locked in like this.
“I did it like 20 times this year,” a smiling Ortiz said, drawing laughter.
“That pretty much sums it up,” Jon Lester, sitting next to him, added.
“I was born for this,” Ortiz concluded.
It’s probably worth pointing out that even with the excellent season Ortiz had, he didn’t do this 20 times, or even once. He managed a top OPS in any five games of 1.600, from April 25-30, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Even in his best OPS season of 2007, the best five-game stretch he had, OPS-wise, was 1.653, from September 11-16. And the year he hit 54 home runs in 2006, he had that April 8-13 stretch, which checks in at a paltry 1.646 OPS.
So if this isn’t Ortiz’s best five-game stretch, it’s certainly not far off. And it’s coming in the World Series, when no one else on either team is hitting much. It’s even more remarkable in context.
As Ross noted, he’s even doing it with the masterful Yadier Molina calling pitches to try and stop him.
“As a catcher, I actually have a lot of respect for Yadier Molina,” Ross said. “I sit and watch and try to see what he’s going to come up with next…Is he going to keep trying to find holes? Or just go safely off or away? I’m watching what Yadi is doing. And they’ve tried a lot.
“David’s just — he’s just — he’s David Ortiz,” Ross concluded. “That says enough.”
Everyone is watching Ortiz, just as intently as Ross is watching Molina try to grapple with him. And if it feels like you haven’t seen anything like this before, you haven’t.
The World Series is still very much up for grabs. The Most Valuable Player award, however, is not.