Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: J.D. Drew

Number 5 hitter: J.D. Drew
[B-R] [FanGraphs] [Josh Kalk] [ESPN] [HitTracker]

Coming off of a disappointing first year with the Red Sox, Drew was kind of a forgotten man on a World Series Champion team. The lone bright spot was his grand slam in the ALCS (pictured above), which helped to seal the victory over the Indians. 2008 has been a very different story. He was hitting a respectable .282/.383/.409 on May 31st, but when Big Papi went down with a bad wrist at the end of May, Drew stepped into the three hole and has been a monster at the plate (.324/.444/.760/1.204 with 13 HR and 33 RBI in 36 games since June 1), earning an All-Star spot, where he won MVP honors in last night’s 4-3 AL victory. He’s hit well in the 6th and 7th slots as well this season.

How he’s pitched to
Pitchers have shown Drew 44.6% fastballs (49.3% from lefties) this year, but with the way he is hitting them (.299 AVG, .552 SLG), he is forcing them to throw more offspeed stuff. Hurlers seem to be pitching around him slightly more, and he is seeing fewer strikes than in previous years (48.0% compared to 49.4% lifetime). From his scatterplots, he tends to lay off pitches in the lower half of the strike zone, but go after the high heater. While he has punished sinkers (.429) and sliders (.405), he has looked pretty woeful against the curveball (.083). He fouls off inside sinkers and knocks outside two-seamers the opposite way. Low sliders are hard for him to make contact on, but if hung, he has squared it up really well. He has also shown some power on cut fastballs when he’s made contact (.250 AVG, .625 SLG).

Hitting approach
Drew has always been a patient hitter, but with this year’s success and a low 38.2% swing rate, he is seeing more pitches in 2008 (4.15 per PA) than at any other point in his career. When he does swing, he’s been right on the money, posting an impressive 90.3% contact rate in the zone and 80.3% overall. He’s shown increased power (.270 IsoP), and his HR/flyball ratio is his highest since his 31 HR season back in 2004. Drew has hit three of the five longest home runs on the Sox this season (his longest at 450 ft true distance). His .328 BABIP suggests that this season is not due to extreme luck, so there are more good things to come. Drew has a very interesting platoon split this year, hitting .306/.453/.531 against lefties in just 64 PA and .301/.403/.581 against righties (small sample size warning). He’s hitting more flyballs and fewer grounders, and that has helped him log 38 XBH already, compared to just 45 all of last season. Drew is hitting just .235 in high leverage situations, but he has hit 5 dingers in those situations.

Drew has been better than average on the basepaths, making enough heads up plays to make up for his middling speed. I can only remember once or twice when he’s slipped up on the basepaths this season. He will take the extra base more often than not.

Drew is having one of the best seasons of his career at age 32. His 156 OPS+ has made him a huge asset to the Red Sox, especially in the absence of David Ortiz and occasional disappearances of Manny Ramirez this season. His splits against lefties won’t hold up the whole year, but look for him to finish with a .290/.390/.525 line, with maybe 25 HR and 90 RBI this year. He is a valuable asset to this offense, and is making a strong case to hit 5th in this order once Ortiz returns from the DL.

Other articles in this series:
Manny Ramirez
David Ortiz
Dustin Pedroia
Jacoby Ellsbury


One Response to Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: J.D. Drew

  1. Pingback: Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: Jason Bay « Red Sox Talk

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