This Just In: J.D. Drew Had a Bad 2007

Poor J.D. Drew. He’s been taking a lot of heat lately.

First, Dave Pinto looked at the worst contracts by Win Shares/$1 million. Under short-term hitters (i.e. in the first two years of the contract), Drew ranks dead last, at 0.85 WS/million, just ahead of Hideki Matsui.

Then, in a longer piece, the Hardball Times’ Craig Brown compiled a "worst outfield for the dollar," using Win Shares Above Bench, and Win Share value. Drew is the starting right fielder on that squad, with two WSAB and providing a performance $5.3 million below his actual $14 million salary. On the bright side, Drew ranked better than the other two outfielders, Jim Edmonds and Scott Podsednik

Brown says of Drew:

Certain expectations come with being the second highest-paid player on the team with the second largest payroll in the game, and Drew fell way short of those expectations in his debut season with the Red Sox. The Sox owe Drew, who turned 33 this winter, $56 million over the next four years. It’s highly likely his name will be mentioned in this space through 2012.

Ouch. Brown uses ISO to draw this conclusion. Drew’s ISO (slugging minus batting) was .264 in 2004, then fell to .234, then about .215. In 2007, it was a paltry .152, just below league average.

I fully admit I may not be the most rational person to speak on this, after basically a year of defending Drew, but this seems a case where perhaps calculations don’t tell the whole story.

Granted, no one is saying Drew is a terrible player — or, likely, even went into their studies with an aim at highlighting his shortcomings in 2007. He appears on these lists because he had a bad season, and was paid a lot to do it.

I’m not sure, however, that it’s "highly likely" he is the most overpaid right fielder in the game for five more years. Never mind the rampant salary escalation we’re seeing, simply looking at Drew’s ISO seems highly misleading. It fails to account for the significant personal distractions Drew was going through during the season that seemed to have a direct correlation to his on-field performance. Likewise, these studies do not count the postseason — how much does a .314/.352/.431 line in the team’s 14 most important games with a key grand slam contribute to his 2007 value? Quite a bit, I’d say.

No one’s going to argue that Drew’s best seasons are likely behind him, but I doubt anyone who saw the 2007 ALCS came away thinking the Red Sox had paid too much for their right fielder.

25 comments… add one

  • I heard Drew occasionally sleeps in a hyperbolic chamber.

    attackgerbil February 22, 2008, 6:34 pm
  • I hope for and expect better things from Drew, but I always thought his and Lugo’s salaries were a bit high. The first FA signings in recent memory where I can remember going: “THAT much…for HIM?”
    Could be I don’t have a long memory, though.

    Devine February 22, 2008, 6:36 pm
  • Come on Paul the numbers dont lie. Just like Jeter’s defense….
    Seriously though, few teams could give a contract like Drew for the output he gave them and win it all. Ill be interested to see what happens with him this year and of course hope for the worst!

    sam-YF February 22, 2008, 7:19 pm
  • Unless I’m missing an inside joke, AG, it’s actually called a hyperbaric chamber. A similar item, I believed was used by the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team (and I think introduced to them by the USSR team).
    Addressing the larger point, it’s an understatement to say that Drew was quite a disappointment in 2007 (not including the postseason, of course), and I expect more of him in 2008. And I truly believe he’ll be notably better. We all know he’s a better player than what he showed in 2007. That said, I wasn’t enamoured with the signing in the first place, but he’s ours now.

    I'mBillMcNeal February 22, 2008, 10:04 pm
  • My perception, based entirely on anecdotal recollection, is that big trade and free agent acquisitions (at least in recent years) have typically performed below expectations their first year with the Red Sox, only to bounce back (at least to some degree) the next (e.g. Josh Beckett). I’m sure there are notable exceptions, although often those players come in with lower expectations (e.g. Mike Lowell). This may be true in other places as well, especially higher profile teams. Does anyone know if someone’s done an actual analysis of this?

    pastorsteve February 23, 2008, 9:14 am
  • My perception, based entirely on anecdotal recollection, is that big trade and free agent acquisitions (at least in recent years) have typically performed below expectations their first year with the Red Sox, only to bounce back (at least to some degree) the next (e.g. Josh Beckett). I’m sure there are notable exceptions, although often those players come in with lower expectations (e.g. Mike Lowell). This may be true in other places as well, especially higher profile teams. Does anyone know if someone’s done an actual analysis of this?

    pastorsteve February 23, 2008, 9:15 am
  • Oops, sorry about that!

    pastorsteve February 23, 2008, 9:16 am
  • I’m with Sam here. It’s disingenuous to be a slave to numbers and predictions for some players but then look on the bright side for others. Drew may rebound a bit this year, but there’s much evidence to suggest it won’t be to the .900 OPS variety. If anything, his career trajectory is looking pretty typical. Peak at age 28 and downhill from there.

    A YF February 23, 2008, 9:31 am
  • JD is 27 when one considers time lost on account of injury. I guess he will be to-the-moon in 2008, when he’ll be 28.

    Dirty Water February 23, 2008, 9:51 am
  • You can’t be serious. So then a part-time player, like Miguel Cairo, is 25 years old?

    A YF February 23, 2008, 10:14 am
  • > missing an inside joke
    I was making a poor play on words, picking on J.D. Drew.

    attackgerbil February 23, 2008, 12:40 pm
  • That was a ha-ha, A. Lighten up

    Dirty Water February 23, 2008, 12:54 pm
  • It’s disingenuous to be a slave to numbers and predictions for some players but then look on the bright side for others.
    Good thing that’s not what I’m doing, and I think Sam realized that, as he was making a joke.
    You might have noticed, for example, that my post is titled, in part, “J.D. Drew Had a Bad 2007.” I divined this knowledge by looking at his numbers, which not coincidentally are bad. This strikes me as different from Jeter’s defenders, who argue the opposite of what the numbers say.
    However, Drew’s numbers may have had an off-field explanation, the resolution of which could portend a decent rebound next season and prove wrong the prediction made in one of the studies.
    Does Jeter have an off-field explanation for his terrible defensive numbers over the past 5-10 years?

    Paul SF February 23, 2008, 2:44 pm
  • Even looking at possible alternative (or off-field) explanations for Drew in 2007 is taking it too far beyond the stats, unless that explanation also covers 2006 too. Brown is onto something and that power decline doesn’t encompass one year. That said, it’s not beyond the lines of reason that Drew rebounds close to his 2006 numbers. But the Sox didn’t pay for those (back to Brown’s analysis).
    And to answer your question, no, no he does not. But taking it to ten years is taking it too far. The metrics suggest he turned “terrible” in 2000. Of course, he also put up this line – .339 .416 .481 as a SS. When he puts up offensive numbers like that (2006 too) it’s easy to swallow his defense. The problem though is when his bat drops a bit more with his defense, as in 2007, it’s time to move him.

    A YF February 23, 2008, 3:16 pm
  • “…Does Jeter have an off-field explanation for his terrible defensive numbers over the past 5-10 years?…”
    …i dunno…is it possible jeter’s defensive weaknesses are as overrated as his defensive strengths were? [see gold gloves]…
    …leave it to paul to minimalize the discussion into who has the bigger off field distractions…i realize drew had a nightmare of a personal situation to deal with, but assuming that was the entire reason for his poor performance, and he’ll miraculously bounce back this year, ignores the fact that there were opinions that he wasn’t very good to begin with, in addition to being a bit brittle, and further suggested that his signing for those $ was a bit foolish…

    dc February 23, 2008, 7:24 pm
  • leave it to paul
    I wasn’t the one who brought up the fallacious Jeter comparison. Nor have I said Drew’s signing was a good one for the money, and nowhere have I said I expect a “miraculous” recovery (not surprisingly, dc sets up the straw man so he can easily knock it down). In fact, several times this offseason, I’ve said I expect him to put up numbers on a par with the second half of his 2007 — which, incidentally, would still be worse than his 2006. So I am not ignoring his trends, simply qualifying the significant decline we saw last season — a decline that was worse than one would have expected, given his trends, and one that is explainable by off-field factors not apparent in the statistics.
    But taking it to ten years is taking it too far.
    But 2000 is seven seasons ago. So saying “five to 10″ is exactly right, isn’t it? At any rate, the Tom Tango study from the Hardball Times annual that I discussed earlier this offseason says Jeter’s been terrible for the duration of his career. So I might have actually not been taking it far enough (though I think recent terribleness may have simply counteracted early adequacy and made the overall numbers look worse).

    Paul SF February 23, 2008, 9:51 pm
  • “…I wasn’t the one who brought up the fallacious Jeter comparison….”
    but you did say: “…However, Drew’s numbers may have had an off-field explanation,…..Does Jeter have an off-field explanation for his terrible defensive numbers over the past 5-10 years?…”…straw man, indeed…those comments, yours, unless you’ve abandoned them, are what i responded to…what does jeter need to prove his manhood to you guys, a bloody sock?…i guess even that isn’t enough any more…see what winning a couple does to you?

    dc February 23, 2008, 11:47 pm
  • straw man, indeed
    So, accused of being disingenuous by treating Drew’s and Jeter’s shortcomings differently, I bring up the key distinction. In response, you accuse me of reducing this to a Jeter-Drew argument, then when I respond that it wasn’t my argument, you launch into your utterly predictable (and tired) generalities about Red Sox fans.
    To quote one of your favorite phrases… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Paul SF February 24, 2008, 1:45 am
  • Jeez, do any of you realize what Drew Jr. went through last year?
    and Dad’s first year under the bright lights of Boston
    playing under a contract he knows he has to prove being worth
    1st in the AL
    Cut the guy some slack. He’s going to be more than fine in 2008.

    Dirty Water February 24, 2008, 9:41 am
  • “…you accuse me of reducing this to a Jeter-Drew argument…” …not at all paul…again, it was you who made the suggestion that off field distractions may have contributed to drew’s off year, while questioning whether jeter has had a similar explanation for his “…terrible defensive numbers over the past 5-10 years…” …seemed like an insult when i first read it, but maybe you didn’t mean it to be, and that’s why you’re objecting to my objection…
    …another earlier thread [started by nick i believe] went into more detail exposing the myth about jeter’s defensive prowess…john contributed with some great comments to put the whole discussion into the proper perspective…the sky’s not gonna fall because someone invented some stats that prove jeter ain’t so good with a glove…we needed stats to tell us what we could already see with our own eyes?…you made an interesting comment too, that was right on i believe, that this perhaps is so intriguing because the popular belief among many observers of the game up until now is that jeter is a stellar defender…i’ll add that it has been fueled by the occasional spectacular play he’s made…the routine plays don’t make the espn “top 10″ highlight reel, and those are what gold-glove voters tend to remember when casting those ballots…i’ll start to worry more when jeter starts losing us more games with his bad defense than he’s winning for us with his bat and occasional great play…
    ……if the reference “you guys” suggests “…utterly predictable (and tired) generalities about Red Sox fans….”, then let me clarify it for you…it’s clear to me that i don’t mean ALL red sox fans…i only meant “you guys”, including some yf’s by the way, that seem intent on invalidating what up until now has been a pretty solid career, some say potential hall of fame, despite the apparent defensive deficiencies [this just in: most players have a deficiency of one kind or another]…the next thing i expect to see is an analysis that “proves” jeter is not as “clutch” as his reputation suggests…to quote one of my favorite phrases: zzzzzz
    …paul, you should know by now that i don’t generalize, and the continued harping of that accusation when one has run out of gas in a discussion is what’s “…utterly predictable (and tired)…”

    dc February 24, 2008, 9:49 am
  • JD Drew’s strong point is getting on base. His career OBP is .390. On a team like the Red Sox his lack of HR’s and power can be slightly negated by his OBP and the ability of the others in the lineup to drive him in. He doesn’t have to hit 25+ HR’s to be a successful part of this lineup, he needs his OBP to stay at or near .375+. With Manny, Papi and Lowell in this lineup just getting on base makes him valuable. He may never break his career high 31 HR’s but in this lineup he doesn’t have to. Provided he plays defense and continues to get OB J.D. Drew is a fine player to have in this situation. Granted his contract may be high, but he serves a bigger purpose here. Drew’s situation can be compared to that of Matsui and Giambi. Both guys with power and both guys who are considered to have contracts that are not equal to their performance. But both Matsui and Giambi can be key parts of the 2008 Yankee lineup provided they can simply keep doing what they do and that’s get on base. Giambi’s career OBP .411 and Matsui .390, the Yankees don’t need 25+ HR’s from them in order to win, not with the potency of the rest of the lineup, just like the Sox.

    John - YF February 24, 2008, 10:53 am
  • SF February 24, 2008, 11:00 am
  • That’s a good point, John. I think cases like the three players you mentioned more clearly indicate the divide between the sabermetric and traditional communities.
    The sabermetric community argues that OBP is nearly twice as important as slugging, while traditionalists (and everyone else, really) love to see home runs and emphasize that. If a guy’s not hitting home runs, he’s perceived as not producing as well, when in fact he might be contributing even MORE — e.g. Papi, whose OPS+ was higher than ever in 2007 despite nearly 20 fewer homers.
    Which makes the Hardball Times’ focus on ISO even less relevant to the question of whether Drew’s contract is the worst in the game.

    Paul SF February 24, 2008, 6:02 pm
  • HA!
    I get it now, AG.
    How about we get away from sabermetrics and stats and … oh, forget it. I’m not getting into this one. Siffice it to say that JD was a let down last year for a number of reasons. I expect him to do much better this year.

    I'mBillMcNeal February 24, 2008, 7:33 pm
  • “You can present me with 4,765 pages of anti-Derek Jeter material; it won’t work, I watch him too much.” – Peter Gammons

    yankeefan February 26, 2008, 6:00 pm

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