2011 Player Review: JD Drew

“He can play an Evans-type right field or he can play a quality center field. I think the fans in Boston are really going to appreciate his style of play, as the fans in L.A. did. We think J.D. has a chance to be very successful in Boston.” – Scott Boras, 2006

I found it somewhat funny (and still depressing) that in one fell swoop, the Boston Red Sox collected a trio of players that most of their fans would grow to despise. In December 2006, Theo Epstein and company committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the likes of JD Drew, Julio Lugo and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Did Drew earn his money in Boston? Ask one of his staunch supporters and they will defend Drew’s defensive prowess, his sporadic, but important playoff contributions and the advanced metrics which clearly articulate that in 2008 and 2009, he was a major asset to the Red Sox.

And if you ask the other 97th-percentile they will tell you that ‘JD Drew Sucks’. There are plenty of Facebook pages and message board forums who proudly wave their disdain for #7. To these fans, RBI production, grit, toughness and emotion play heavy factors and Drew was underwhelming to say the least in all of those aspects. At least to the naked eye.

According to Fangraphs, Drew was worth a little over 4 wins in 2008 and nearly 5 wins in 2009 during injury-limited seasons. This was a two-year stretch where Drew far-exceeded expectations as far as the front office was concerned. Here at our own website, Drew was named 2010 Fire Brand of the Year following his 2009 season in which he demonstrated excellent defense, near-elite power and home run-to-flyball percentages, a 15% walk rate and $22 million in total value.

Not everyone sees it that way though. A lot of fans see Drew as a baby, a wimp, a wuss and a guy who doesn’t care. These fans wish that Trot Nixon never left and many could care less about any of the value Drew brought defensively. They saw Drew as a detriment from early in 2007 until he limped his way out of town after the Red Sox collapsed in 2011. Good riddance.

If you prefer advanced metrics and want to point at Drew’s overarching value in 2008 and 2009, then you might be interested to know that based on his 2011 performance, Drew owes the team a little over $1 million. I say that half-jokingly, but the same value system that lead to Drew gaining support and street-cred amongst the sabr-slanted baseball crowd, clearly shows that Drew was worth LESS than a replacement-level player in 2011.

Here a little fun fact for you — Between Drew, Carl Crawford and Darnell McDonald, the three players were worth a TOTAL of $700,000 while earning a combined $29 million in salary.

2011 JD Drew -0.3 WAR, ($1.1)
2011 Carl Crawford 0.2 WAR, ($0.9)
2011 Darnell McDonald 0.2 WAR, ($0.9)

No, that is not a typo. Drew was a negative value in 2011, Crawford and McDonald were equal and both barely a squeak above replacement level. For a combined $29 million you got one-tenth of a win above replacement and $700,000 worth of production.

Following the footsteps of a revered dirtdog like Nixon wouldn’t be easy for Drew but like everything else, it didn’t seem to matter to him. However you interpreted Drew’s attitude is up to you. His demeanor led many fans to question whether he cared about any outcome during a game. Groundout to second base? No reaction. Home run to RF? No reaction. Stolen base? Blank stare. Gunned down at home? Reaction akin to completing a household chore — barely an expression.

Here we have a passionate fanbase, hanging on the edge of every ball and strike and their newly-minted and handsomely-compensated outfielder is barely reacting after being called out on third strikes repeatedly. What were they to think? That he cared? He sure didn’t look like it. By the summer of 2007, Drew was a punching bag for fans who longed for the days of Dwight Evans and the ‘Real #7′.

The funny thing about all of that is no one really knew what was going on in Drew’s head. He was consistent in his personality and behavior since the day he put on the Red Sox cap. Whether we liked it or not, it was how he was. And to that, he was always the same. He’s probably a good poker player because of his lack of response and expression. The problem is that in this city, the fans want to see emotion from you — even if you suck.

That is of course unless you are Lackey. In which case, you better not show as much reaction because if you you suck too much, shouldn’t be as fiery. We like fiery players only if they are good. Some emotion, but not too much if you are bad and if you don’t show any emotion, well then you better be awesome. Drew was not awesome. Hence, he was hated.

I was always a Drew supporter. I like to look at baseball beyond the stats that NESN runs up on a graphic during each player’s at-bat, but many other fans don’t. I can understand that many fans expect to see run creation but only to a certain point. I never thought Drew was as bad as he was made out to be, relatively speaking. His five-year career in Boston can be summed up as ‘meh’, very good, great, meh and bad. That’s 2006-2011 in a nutshell but most fans I hear talk about Drew act as though all five years of the contract were just like 2011 and that’s simply not true.

Drew’s 2011 was the most problematic and surely the injury battles played a role, but his base skills completely collapsed beneath him. Drew hit 49% of his batted-balls on the ground which was a direct result of poor-contact and weakly-hit balls. His hard-hit ball percentage was 23% and by far the lowest of his 11-year career. His weakly-hit ball percentage was nearly 25% and the highest of his career by nearly 10 percentage points. Not. Good.

It didn’t end well for Drew in Boston and we are all probably better off now that he is gone. He wasn’t what most people wanted, but let’s not act like it was a complete disaster either.

Categories: Boston Red Sox

30 Responses to “2011 Player Review: JD Drew” Subscribe

  1. bob November 20, 2011 at 11:47 AM #

    Boston has over paid big time!Not only for J.D.Drew to me he was never worth the money they gave him wow oh well Good for him !!Crawford ,Dice K,J .lackey ,now ortiz,I guess crawford has a good chance to turn it around next year at least the red sox are hoping !

  2. stoveleague November 20, 2011 at 1:03 PM #

    Drew's non-demonstrative manner never bothered me. In fact, being from the Old School, I preferred it to some of the ridiculous celebratory nonsense that is so commonplace today. But….

    He averaged only 475 plate appearances in his 5 years in Boston.

    • darryljohnston November 20, 2011 at 7:06 PM #

      I am in the same boat with respect to his demeanor. It never concerned me. When he was healthy he always ran hard and to me that was the key, not your facial expression after a groundout.

  3. tonez November 20, 2011 at 2:11 PM #

    Why are you lumping McDonald in with Drew and Crawford? One of these things is not like the other. McDonald played for 470K last year, not too much above league minimum. Having a replacement level player at league minimum is hardly over paying.

    • darryljohnston November 20, 2011 at 7:08 PM #

      Mostly because I found it amusing that the other two comp'd well against McDonald. That and I don't like him so it makes Drew and Crawford's season that more annoying.

  4. brad November 20, 2011 at 3:02 PM #

    I never had a problem with Drew really. It would have been nice if he played more, but he was usually a pretty good player when he played. Until this year anyway. It will be interesting to see who ultimately takes over in right this year.

  5. Mr Punch November 20, 2011 at 5:16 PM #

    There's "selective," and then there's "taking all the way on a 3-1 count." Drew never showed any sign that he knew or cared what was going on in the game. That, I think, more than anything, is what drove a lot of fans crazy.

    • ChipBuck November 20, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

      Mr. Punch – That's because most fans like to make assumptions based on terribly flawed logic. Contrary to popular belief, not all athletes have extroverted personalities. Drew is an introvert. Just because he didn't wear his heart on his sleeve (like Youk or Lackey for example), it doesn't mean he didn't care. Drew lead by example. He showed up early to the park to take batting practice, exhibited excellent plate discipline, and took great pride in his defense. My only issue with him is that he was a bit too fragile, perhaps even soft at times. Then again, do we really want an injured player going out to play every day or pitch every fifth day? Lackey did, and look at the results.

      • B_isback November 21, 2011 at 4:03 PM #

        You're just kidding right? Led by example? I hear Manny was the hardest worker on the team. He was at the gym and park early all the time too. He took pride in his defense, just wasn't gifted. And Schilling… Drew missed an ENTIRE YEAR of his deal with piddly crap. He was nearly thown under the bus in a post-game interview by Terry Francona of all people for asking out of a game. The Sox already had a pitcher in for a position player and JD asked out in the 7th or 8th inning because his groin 'felt funny'. He hit a home run later in the game to win it, sat out 2 games then 3 days later made one of the best base-running plays I can remember going 1st to 3rd in a tight game. So to answer your question, Yes. Get your ass out there and play if you can.

        • ChipBuck November 21, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

          Drew missed a large portion of the season because he was suffering from shoulder impingement. As someone that's actually suffered from such an injury, it's both painful and difficult to recover from. The only real treatment is rest and physical therapy. Drew tried playing through the injury, but he was terrible when he played. I guess you would have rather had Drew play like crap for the final three months rather than recover and attempt to come back healthy…

  6. magowanite November 20, 2011 at 6:02 PM #

    JD Drew is just trying to make the argument to be a position player analogue of Barry Zito. Leave him alone!

  7. Hitting Drills November 20, 2011 at 9:15 PM #

    My coach in college told me a story about how when he played FSU, he was in there locker room to use the bathroom and he saw a note in J.D’s locker that read “ You will never be a good player until you learn how to bunt”. – Coach martin

    My coach also went to tell me that Drew was the greatest college player he had ever seen. H e was probably right. It’s funny how great college players aren’t able to put things together, while average college players go on to have phenomenal Big League careers

    • magowanite November 21, 2011 at 4:41 AM #

      I'd venture to guess that those who had stellar college careers and lackluster pro careers listened to too much Asher Roth.

  8. B_isback November 21, 2011 at 3:35 PM #

    I'd like one of you diehard JD Drew fans and statheads – because only a family member or stathead could actually be a fan – to do a little numbers crunching that makes SENSE.

    Here's your assignment: Compile JD Drews COMPLETE stat set for his FIVE year contract. Don't understand? Let me 'splain it to ya'. He played less than 4 years out of his 5 year contract. Compile the stats of all his replacements and the additional cost to the Red Sox to fill RF with a body while he sat in the clubhouse whirlpool with itchy ankles, or ashy elbows, or a crick in his neck from sleeping on a too-soft or too-hard pillow. Those stats and additional cost rightly belong to him. He was paid to show up and play. I'd like to see the combined stats of him and his replacements and the splits between him and his replacements. Same with the cost.

    • ChipBuck November 21, 2011 at 9:06 PM #

      Yeah, only statheads you live and die with stats and facts could love a player as unloveable as JD Drew. By the way, Drew played in 606 games during his tenure. Youk has played in 648. That's an average of 8 games more per season. Maybe Youk should quit whining about his injuries and get out on the field and play too…

      • B_isback November 22, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

        So you don't argue the premise of my comment? You respond by dragging Youk into it. Ok. That's logical. Maybe we can talk more about Youk if he is the subject of another player review.

        • darryljohnston November 22, 2011 at 2:40 PM #

          If I had enough free time I would gladly take on your challenge. I'll see what I can do.

        • ChipBuck November 22, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

          There was nothing worthy of responding to B_isback. You are clearly incapable of speaking rationally about Drew, so why should I offer a response. Regardless of what I say, you'll disagree with. As much fun as it is to argue in circles, I'm going to pass.

  9. B_isback November 21, 2011 at 3:35 PM #

    I remember Rice laughing about OBP. He got it. Your paid to produce. Drew's career stats are mired in mediocrity and unfulfilled promise.

    And please, what a friggin laugh, some of you claim to revel in the beauty of his fielding grace. Who goes to watch that? Be honest, not even you. Nobody would believe you sit in the stands at Fenway rubbing your thigh in exitement as Drew adjusts his lateral and verticle depth based on game situations and think to yourself, or aloud to unimpressed people around you "What an awesome shift he just made." At the park or on TV all you see is the pitch to the batter – the bat to the ball – track the flight – and then, finally, after all the little nuanced crap most people never see and even fewer understand, you see scant seconds of a well paid professional catching a ball he should. For all that, he is a good fielder. SO WHAT? For the total package, I personally would much rather watch Trot Nixon toss a ball to a kid in the stands and hustle to the dugout, even if there was a guy on base and only two out.

    • darryljohnston November 21, 2011 at 5:26 PM #

      Whew! Feel better? I'm glad you let that all out and sorry that you long for the DirtDog days of Trotman but whether or not you, me, Chip Buck or Wily Mo Pena want to acknowledge it — defense is a part of production and a large factor in wins. I'm not rubbing my thigh in excitement, but I certaintly am not going to ignore it.

      • B_isback November 22, 2011 at 11:20 AM #

        Yes I do feel better.

        Your purpose on offense is to produce runs.
        Your purpose on defense is to prevent runs.
        Defense is not a productive function.
        But I won't ignore it either.

        • darryljohnston November 22, 2011 at 2:39 PM #

          Run Prevention is a function of Wins. WAR is a measurement of wins. JD Drew's contribution to the bottom line in 2008 and 2009 was 4 and 5 wins respectively.

          • B_isback November 23, 2011 at 12:12 PM #

            Glad you mention WAR. Wins Above Replacement. Exactly the reason I had a problem with Drew. He had to be replaced 20% of the time.

            Just remember WAR and VORP are NON-standardized sabermetric formulas subject to substitions for certain portions of input data used to calculate the final value. And some of the factors are based on not so well accepted fielding stats such as UZR, while using sketchy park adjustments to boot.

            My point sabermetrically speaking is that a player is contracted to hold a position for 162 games per year. His contract is based on that. His WAR and VORP should be calculated using stats from his replacements if he needs replacement. If given a day off or asked to fill in at a different position it should not be on him. Perhaps in contract talks when an agent breaks out WAR and VORP a GM could throw xWAR an xVORP back at him.

          • B_isback November 23, 2011 at 1:56 PM #

            Just to go off a bit on UZR, I find it maddenly arbitrary. How the hell is the zone quantified? Who measures it and keeps track of it during a game? Is the zone an average of all players' "ranges" at that position, or is the zone player specific? Is it based on where a player is positioned before contact and how far he moves on individual plays, or only by where he makes a play on any batted ball in reference to a generic starting position in a generic zone overlayed on the field? Are some teams better at positioning players than others? Can a player UZR be a product of team defensive game-planning? Part of WAR depends on UZR and plays made "beyond UZR". To me it seems like sketchy built on even sketchier.

          • darryljohnston November 23, 2011 at 3:55 PM #

            On average MLB OFers see 560 PAs per year. Before I start doing any work on this, what threshhold is appropriate to you?

            Prince Fielder I think was the only guy last year to play all 162 games.

          • B_isback December 3, 2011 at 9:43 AM #

            Sorry so long getting back. 560 is good. That's about 3.65ab over 154 games.

    • ChipBuck November 21, 2011 at 9:07 PM #

      Baseball players are paid to get on base and score runs. If no one had gotten on base ahead of Rice, he would've had very few runs to "produce."

      • B_isback November 22, 2011 at 11:37 AM #

        That is a great argument Chip. But if all his near 500 HR were solo shots, he still could not have been more productive in those at bats if he worked more counts for walks now could he? In fact if he honed JD Drew-like plate dicipline and walked every time somebody was on base he probably would have far fewer rbi. As tough as that would have been on opposing pitchers, it probably wouldn't have got him to Cooperstown. Not sure if many pitchers get nervous when great plate dicipline guys are on deck as opposed to when great hitters are on deck.

        • ChipBuck November 22, 2011 at 8:54 PM #

          Pitchers were so nervous of Jim Rice, they intentionally walked him only 77 times in his career…about six on average. That number is good for 186th all time. He finished behind Murray (222), Gwynn (202), Schmidt (201), Harold effing Baines (187), Boggs (180), Winfield (172), Parker (170), Murphy (159), Dawson (143), Darrell Evans (141), etc. I find it interesting that the "most feared hitter" of his era was intentionally walked less than countless other players from the same era. Furthermore, you overvalued his career home run total by 118. That's not even close to 500 home runs. It took me 13 seconds to verify his HR total. JD Drew doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, but neither does Jim Rice.

          • B_isback November 23, 2011 at 1:24 PM #

            Yes a bad mistake. 382. But let's not drag anyone out of the HOF based on my error. I should have spent the 13 seconds myself.

            But my point still stands on the productivity of those 382 ab.

            Here's a question: When those type of hitter are in rbi situations, would you rather see them intentionally walked or given a shot to make contact?

            I think that's what Mr Punch was getting at. In rbi situations, when Drew is the best bet to drive in runs, I would rather see him extend his strike zone in an effort to make contact. Working a walk may be great for obp but, leaving runs left on base for less talented hitters to drive in doesn't SEEM like a winning strategy. It would look like Larry Bird not wanting a game-winning shot because he might miss and screw up his shooting percentage. I believe that's what Rice was hinting at. Don't pass the buck, step up and take it upon yourself.