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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Can Always Find a Way to Be Negative

Sports Illustrated

The Red Sox are playing better than anybody in the league right now, and it really isn't even close. They have just finished off their third consecutive sweep. They have won two straight road series against division opponents. First, swept the Yankees, which gave the team sole possession of first place in the AL East. Then, they travelled to Toronto and put on an absolute show, outscoring the Jays 35-6. The offense is clicking on all cylinders (almost) and the pitching has been very good, at least good enough to win nine straight. However, I'm a negative person at heart, and there is still something on this team that is bothering me. JD Drew is still the team's starting right fielder, and he has not been good in that role.

Thankfully, Drew is in his last year of his contract with the team, and almost certainly will not return next year. There all many people in the Boston area who despise Drew, most because he fails to show "emotion" on the field. I couldn't care less about all that garbage. What do I care if a guy is flipping out after a strikeout, a la Youk, or just walking back to the dugout. He struck out either way. The reason Drew has been my least favorite on the team the past few years is that he is remarkably inconsistent. He has shown flashes of great things all throughout his major league career, yet has not been able to build on it. This year, he is playing worse than he ever has, and it may be time to make a change.

As inconsistent as Drew has been in a Red Sox uniform, he has always managed to put up decent numbers by year end. In his years here, excluding this one, he has typically sported a triple-slash line around .275/.380/.470. They are not numbers that exactly jump off the page, but they are acceptable numbers for a guy who is not the focal point of the lineup. However, this year, Drew's numbers have been slipping. He currently has a triple-slash line of .227/.330/.337, all of which would be career lows. Since 1999, Drew has always managed to post an OPS+ above 100 (league average), but this year he is sitting at a measly 84. Everything points to a steep drop in his numbers for 2011.

One thing about this year is that Drew is striking out more than he ever has. So far this season, he has gone down by the way of the K (sorry, Don Orsillo) in one out of every four at bats. If you figure that a batter typically gets four at bats every game, that means you're likely to see Drew strike out at least once every game. He is also walking less than he typically has throughout his career, although the 13% BB rate is a slight improvement over his 2010 performance. As my readers probably know by now, I am a fan of BABIP. Over his career, Drew had consistently posted a BABIP above or around .300. However, last year that number fell to .282, and this year it sits at .275. Because Drew has lost a step, he is less likely to beat out grounders in the hole, and that number is expected to fall. So, to me, the best case scenario for Drew BABIP-wise would be around .290, which would raise his average to, what, around .235? Still no good.

The team doesn't have many options to replace Drew, but I have become a big proponent of giving Reddick more of a chance. Reddick has shown nice power numbers thus far in AAA Pawtucket. He currently sits at 12 homers and 31 RBIs through 50 games. He probably isn't the guy for the future (I still believe that belongs to Ryan Kalish), but he deserves a shot in the present. He already had a five-game stint in the bigs earlier this year, and performed well. He put up a .385/.400/.462 triple-slash line in the extremely small sample size. I'm not suggesting Drew be taken out of the lineup completely; we all know Francona is not going to do that. However, why not put Reddick in the lineup more often. On top of the possible better production, the team could boost his trade value, as he is a disposable piece with Kalish also on the horizon.

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