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Calling J.D. Drew “easy to hate” may be a bit of an understatement.
The soft-spoken right fielder for the Red Sox is entering his fourth season with the club since signing a lucrative five-year, $70 million deal following the 2006 campaign.
Since signing that deal, Drew has become a magnet for criticism, whether it be for his generally boring demeanor, the pileup of day-to-day injuries, modest home run and RBI totals, or for the simple fact we don’t feel as though we’re getting $14 million worth of production out of our right fielder every season.
Whatever your reason for loathing No. 7, which seems to be the local consensus, General Manager Theo Epstein begs to differ.
“From a straight objective standpoint, what he contributes offensively and what he contributes defensively, and add in baserunning, so it’s the total value of the player, on a rate basis he was outstanding, and there aren’t too many outfielders who compare to what he did,” Epstein told NESN last October.
Epstein later went on to say that J.D. Drew was one of the three best all-around outfielders in the American League.
Wait….J.D. Drew? That emotionless statue that stands next to Pesky’s Pole all summer? He’s one of the three best all-around outfielders in the American League?
Fortunately, our wunderkind GM didn’t go completely insane during the winter months, he’s just smarter than us.
Lets try to figure this out….
If you delve beyond your father’s barometer of what makes a good baseball player, i.e. batting average, home runs, and runs batted in, you begin to see where Theo’s coming from.
J.D. ranked second amongst AL outfielders in on-base percentage, to the tune of .392, behind only Shin-Soo Choo, fifth in slugging (.522), and third in OPS at .914, behind only Adam Lind and teammate Jason Bay.
Drew also ranked fourth in walks (82), ninth in XBH (58) and ninth in home runs (24) respectively. All of this done while missing 35 games due to injury.
But injuries have been one of the major causes for concern since Drew’s arrival. Listen, he didn’t earn the nickname DL Drew out of nowhere. Since becoming a full time player in 1999 with St. Louis, Drew has averaged 121 games a year, but since coming to Boston, hes managed 129 games per year, which is dragged down by his injury marred 2008 campaign where he only appeared in 109 games. So in actuality, our thoughts that this guy’s as soft as a Tempur pedic may be a bit unfounded.
On top of his sneaky efficient bat, Drew has performed well in right throughout his career, which helped him establish a zone rating of 12.938, good for fifth in the AL amongst outfielders, ahead of the heralded likes of Ichiro Suzuki. Drew will never be mistaken for a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, but realistically the guy is an above average fielder, who takes good breaks on balls, can hold runners at third on shallow sac-flys with an above-average arm, and wont misplay balls in Fenway’s dangerous right field. Like his bat, not exciting, but it gets the job done consistently, at a very high level.
Drew’s tenure in Boston has been mired by constant criticism from our ever-faithful fan base, that for the most part, is unwarranted. Here are Drew’s average numbers since coming to Boston, compared to another top American League outfielder over the last three seasons: I’ll keep a running tally for those of you skimming.
As you can see, only seven less games, while Player B is seen as an athletic freak, who’s a “warrior” for his club, and good ol’ DL Drew has been tagged “injury prone.”
Seeing as J.D. has never been described as durable, this was actually much closer than I originally thought: Call it a wash.
Four less runs, and three less RBI per, which aren’t entirely meaningful, because those numbers are accumulated through many outside factors (batting order, players in scoring position for you, players behind you, driving you in).
While those numbers do remain eerily similar, Drew hits for more power, and his slightly lower batting average is more than compensated for by his far superiorOBP, slugging percentage, and OPS.
So we can give Drew the green light at the dish.
The main difference here is Player B’s stolen base numbers. While clearly Drew doesn’t get it done in the burglary department, Player B ran himself into an average of 11 extra outs per season while amassing his incredible stolen base numbers. So he’s actually on base less than his .349 average would suggest, but that’s besides the point.
Player B steals the base running without a throw.
Now to these two players’ zone rating last season. In right, Drew’s zone rating was good for fourth amongst AL rightfielders, while in left, Carl Crawford’s….er Player B’s (Sorry, ruined the surprise) zone rating of 10.935 was good for dead last in the ENTIRE MLB. Sure, zone rating might not be the be-all-end-all when judging how well a player fields his position (oh by the way, this is the same stat that landed Jacoby left with his “average” centerfield play last season). Based on the eye test, you’d probably go with Crawford, but the numbers don’t lie.
Drew catches fielding, can of corn.
So for those of you keeping track at home, Drew over the past three seasons has been a better outfielder than Carl Crawford. Yeah, thats right, I said it. The same Carl Crawford that George Steinbrenner will make a very rich man next offseason.
When Drew’s contract expires after next season, few will cry to extend him, many will actually be happy to see him leave, but in the end, after all the looking third strikes and infuriating at bats, his impressive numbers always seem to accumulate, and they will continue well after he’s moved on from Boston.
Theo’s opinion on Drew may seem a bit exaggerated and loyalty-driven, but all things considered, you can at least throw J.D. Drew in the conversation as one of the best all-around outfielders in the AL.