Is JD Drew a disappointment in Boston? Depends who you ask. Certainly Drew can’t have surprised anybody with his performance in Boston. From age 24-30 in St. Louis, Atlanta and LA, he batted .291/.399/.517 and averaged 75 Runs, 21 HR and 65 RBI/year in 472 plate appearances per year over 120 games per year. In three years in Boston from age 31-33, Drew has batted .276./.390/.485 and averaged 82 Runs, 18 HR and 65 RBI/year in 516 plate appearances per year over 129 games per year. This is just about exactly what you would expect for a player of his age with his prior track record. But his contract still draws flak – here’s the Globe’s Tony Massarotti:
Despite the recent assertions of one longtime major league evaluator and executive that the Red Sox really have not signed any bad contracts during the Epstein Era, there have been mistakes. The Sox are still paying Julio Lugo. Until last year, they were still paying Edgar Renteria. J.D. Drew wouldn’t be nearly the lightning rod he is if his salary were $10 million instead of $14 million…
H/T Patrick Sullivan, who responds that “J.D. Drew wouldn’t be nearly the lightning rod he is if [Massarotti] & friends knew what constituted a good baseball player.” In one sense, Massarotti is correct: the market has gone down since Drew was signed in the 2006-07 offseason, and you would no longer pay $14 million per year for a guy who does what Drew does and misses as many games as Drew misses. But Drew’s been hearing this since the deal was signed, and it does rather miss the point of the relative scarcity of guys who can put up a .390 OBP with solid power, and how useful those guys are to your team.
Has Drew been less than clutch? That charge sticks to him, and while the sample sizes in Boston aren’t large enough to accuse him of a tendency to not hit in clutch situations, on the whole you can’t blame people for concluding that his performance is less aggressive in certain situations. The flip side is that Drew walks in clutch situations a lot, and that has value of its own.
Here’s how Drew’s numbers break down over his three-year Red Sox career.
First, over 453 plate appearances with men in scoring position in Boston, Drew has batted .243/.411/.451, compared to .288/.381/.497 in his other 1094 regular season plate appareances. He’s reached base by walk or hit batsman 104 times with RISP, compared to 82 hits; in non-RISP situations the ratio is 144 to 273. That may suggest that he’s pressing or that pitchers are working around him, or both, or be simply a statistical fluke; it does indicate that over his Sox tenure, he’s been less of a threat to hit the ball and more of a threat to draw a walk when there are men in scoring position. I think the extra 30 points of OBP are more than enough to balance the scales out (you almost never find yourself in a better situation after walking a guy when there are already runners in scoring position), but it’s at least a noticeable difference.
Then there’s the late innings of a close game, much the same story: .234/.382/.354 over 220 plate appearances, with 21 RBI (an average of 49 RBI per 516 plate appearances compared to the 65 he’s averaged overall), reaching base by BB or HBP 43 times compared to 41 hits. Some criticism can fairly be laid here for Drew slugging .354 in these situations, granting that it’s only 220 plate appearances and probably a disproportionate number of those are against Mariano Rivera and other closers.
Finally, there’s the postseason, in which Drew as a Red Sox has been the opposite way, batting .286/.346/.459, an improved batting average but one with less power and a lot less walks (he’s reached by BB/HBP in the postseason 9 times vs 28 hits). Of course, postseason games are against a tougher cut of competition, and there’s a hidden factor at work; whereas he’s missed an average of 33 games per year the past three seasons, Drew has played in all 28 Boston postseason games over that period, with per-162-game averages of 23 homers, 64 Runs, and – wait for it – 109 RBI. You can’t very well fault Drew as an RBI man without noticing that he’s stepped up his RBI game in the biggest games of his Boston career.