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.