How bad is J.D. Drew, exactly?


There has been a lot of talk in recent days about benching J.D. Drew, and even trading Drew. Let me save some web space here: he ain’t getting traded. No one will take that contract off our hands, with the way he’s playing. I think we’d have to pay $7 million a year just to get someone to consider it, and that is just out of the question.

2007 Performance

Drew, who is a career .282/.388/.496 hitter (almost exclusively in the NL), has struggled mightily this season and currently stands at .252/.353/.378 with 7 HR and 49 RBI. His OPS of .731 ranks him 68th among qualified hitters in the American League. Since the All-Star Break, Drew is hitting .242/.326/.356 with just 1 HR and 16 RBI. There’s no denying that critics are justified in expecting more out of Drew, but don’t forget that Vernon Wells, an esteemed slugger for the Blue Jays, is just above him with an OPS of .733 on the year. And Lyle Overbay, a pretty good hitter in his own right, is just below Drew at .729 for 2007. Drew is not the only player having an off year.

What is wrong with J.D.? Rumors have swirled that his 17-month old son’s health has been weighing on him, that his right shoulder is an issue in generating power in his swing, that he is cracking under the pressure. When they signed him, the Red Sox talked about acquiring him as a #5 hitter to slot in behind Manny Ramirez, and Drew is hitting .273/.378/.402 in that role. Not bad, except the power is not there. Thank God for Mike Lowell, who has filled in admirably in this power drain of a season for the Sox offense.

Expectations

As with many things in life, I think it’s all about expectations. People are disgusted with Drew because a #5 hitter making $14 million needs to have more than 7 HR and 49 RBI. I don’t deny that. The Red Sox sold him to the Nation as a production guy, when he clearly doesn’t seem to fit the mold. People were talking .300 with 25 HR and 100 RBI when he came in, but that’s not his typical year.

Drew had played eight seasons before opting out of Los Angeles, and he hit 20 HR only three of those years. He did hit 31 HR for Atlanta in 2004, but that was an aberration. He hit .300 only two of those seasons, and he reached 100 RBI for the first time last year, when he was batting mostly cleanup for the Dodgers. The numbers don’t lie. It would be far more reasonable to expect something like this: .280/.380/.450 with 15 HR and around 85 RBI.

Drew is, and always has been, more about getting on base than anything else. Even this year, when his batting average has been very weak, he’s still well above average in OBP. I myself have always thought of him as an ideal #2 hitter, though he has yet to be used in that role as a Red Sox.

Outlook

Honestly, I don’t believe that Drew is horribly off of what he can do. He’s having a down year, and that’s been compounded by a lot of other stuff in his life. I don’t think it’s really a pressure issue, because Drew is not affected by the press or the fans; he is the type of person to bear down and perform in specific cases (like facing his former team, the Phillies, or his younger brother’s team, the Diamondbacks). There could be a nagging injury, as that shoulder was a big concern going into this season.

Maybe he does take too many pitches. Maybe he’s just too bored-looking on the field. But we knew all that when he got here. These are not new developments, and should not surprise you. And they haven’t adversely affected his play in years past. But his history of injuries was a big question mark- how many games would we get out of this guy? Drew has been satisfactory in that regard, having appeared in 122 games so far. He’s played through injury, though he’s looked more susceptible to left-handers than I originally thought.

But you know what? He’s a smart guy, he plays a mean right field, and he doesn’t cause problems. Curt Schilling testified on the radio this morning that he’s putting in work in the cage, trying to figure himself out. Give him a break, it’s his first year and he’s adjusting to a new league. To talk trade at this point is just crazy, especially given his contract. Playing time, that’s another issue. Let him play part-time until the playoffs begin. Maybe he can get healthy/get his head on straight by October. I’m willing to bet that he bounces back and has a very good season for Boston in 2008. As frustrating as it is, just try to be patient for now.

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6 Responses to How bad is J.D. Drew, exactly?

  1. Pat says:

    Who do you see in center field next year? I am thinking this is a typical Covelli year; Would Jacoby be an upgrade?
    I agree with Drew, and also expect a bit more from Julio next year.
    Should we expect more from Manny? I think it’s hard to say.
    I expect more from Papi next year, which might be unfair, but I think his health will be better.

    I guess my biggest 2008 questions is, who’s on third?

  2. donchoi says:

    Hey Pat, thanks for reading and your comment. It seems that we are getting subpar offensive years from a lot of people at the same time, but with our pitching and defense, it doesn’t seem to matter much; still, I would like all of the guys you mentioned to bounce back. I expect most of them to, based on career averages and injury issues.

    As for the roster in 2008, you read my mind- I’ve actually been preparing a post on next year’s roster and beyond..

    Just a quick summary: I think the Sox have to target one huge free agent in the next two years, and that determines what they do with the rest of the roster. Let’s face it, we are almost like the Yanks, in that we can pursue and land any free agent out there (just not all of them at once). There are some really tantalizing names, including A-Rod (99.9% likely) and possibly Johan Santana after 2008 (far less likely). The Sox are obviously waiting to see how A-Rod shakes out before they re-sign Lowell. A lot of analysts believe that despite their posturing, the Yankees would try to re-sign Rodriguez if he opted out. For the Sox, getting A-rod would be awesome, but Santana is also worth acquiring.

    Santana is going to command something in the ballpark of $20+ million/year, which the Twins may pay, but it doesn’t look like they’re getting a new ballpark anytime soon, partly due to the bridge accident this year. With the wealth of pitching prospects we have, I’d actually advocate a preemptive move and trade for Santana THIS offseason. Something like Lester, Crisp (Torii Hunter is a FA this year), Hansen and Masterson ought to get it done.

    Signing A-Rod would mean Mike Lowell walks this year; if we could pry Santana away, Lowell re-signs and Ellsbury would slot into CF.

  3. Pat says:

    How much blame can we place on Tito’s shoulder’s for tonights loss? It sure seems like yet another game of leaving the pitcher in too long. Listening on the radio, Glenn and Joe sure seemed ready to pull Dice two hitters before the slam when Julian was ready.

    It’s sure easy to see this stuff in retrospect.

  4. donchoi says:

    This is a case where Francona’s being a player’s manager didn’t help in the game. He was trying to give Dice-K a chance to work through his struggles and save some face and not leave before even making it through three innings. It definitely hurts in the short term, but it does build up trust between player and manager; and Dice-K’s going to be in Boston a long time.

    For whatever reason, Matsuzaka doesn’t seem to be able to solve this bad streak, whether it’s a communication problem or an injury or something else. He’s a smart guy, so I don’t know why he’s not making adjustments. A lot of people have commented how he’s staying away from his off-speed stuff (very few changeups and curves lately). His velocity is fine at 94 mph, but his control is awful. Either something is physically preventing him from throwing those, or he is trying to prepare himself for the playoffs by “mastering” his fastball, an experiment which is costing the Sox.

  5. diceKen says:

    Drew is definitely having an off year. To make that much money and produce like a guy who just got called up from the minors is disgusting. With Beckett we knew what he was capable of being an Ace and changing leagues as a pitcher is more difficult than as a hitter for sure. Its not just drew though, I am nervous about the Sox’s chances in the playoff’s because of their lack of offense. Its been such a common theme this year. They are less than 500 in 1 run games, that means you’re not hitting with risp. Trade Drew for a pitching machine, the pitching machine would probably help the team more than Drew hitting into yet another double play…

  6. donchoi says:

    I would say that we are just as certain that Drew can bounce back from this season as we were that Beckett would be better than he was last year. No one was 100% certain that Josh would blossom as he has this season, and no one can be certain that Drew will go back to his career numbers next year. Still, the odds say that he will go back to what his numbers say he is. In fact, he’s hitting fairly well since Aug 1, though still without the power. But as I say above, he never had that much power to begin with.

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