Monday, January 30, 2012

Saying Goodbye to the Anti-Nick Punto


JD Drew is one of the more fascinating players to me in recent Red Sox history. He signed a five year, $70 million contract with the team prior to the 2007, and many people theorized that they did so to make it easier to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka. Whether or not that is true, we'll never know. What we do know is that Drew was generally disliked around Boston. People saw him as a guy who didn't care because he didn't show emotions like hometown favorites such as Youkilis and Pedroia. However, this always struck me as funny, because Drew was very valuable for the Sox over his five year contract, and played well in all facets of the game. While it is being reported that he will likely retire, we know for sure that he will not play in a Red Sox uniform again.

Drew played very well for a few other teams before signing with Boston, but I don't write about them, so I will only focus on 2007-2011. He replaced Trot Nixon in right field, who was a fan favorite during his tenure in Boston where he was loved for his "Dirt Dog-y-ness". While Drew couldn't recreate that aspect of Nixon's game, he gave the team more production in right than it has seen from Nixon. In his first season, Drew had his worst year in a Boston uniform. He still was an above average hitter that year and boasted a .373 OBP. His power disappeared that year, as he posted a .152 ISO, his first under .200 since 2003. However, he also had some big moments in the postseason on the way to a World Series championship. He crushed a huge grand slam in game 6 of the ALCS against Cleveland for his biggest moment.

Over the next three years, Drew was very valuable in right field, and was worth 11.4 wins per Fangraphs. His best season offensively was 2008. He walked 17.3% of the time, while limiting his strike outs to about the same rate. This led to a .280/.408/.519 slash line and a 137 OPS +. Last season, Drew was hurt for most of the year, and ineffective for the 81 games he played in. It was clear his career was just about over. However, for his first three years, he was very good for this team. From 2007-2010, he was the eighth most valuable right fielder in baseball according to fWAR. His .369 wOBA was good enough for seventh amongst right fielders during that time period, while his 121 wRC+ was in the same spot.

On defense, Drew mastered the large space that is Fenway Park's right field. According to all defensive metrics he was an above average defender, which is important considering the vast space he covered for home games. Of course, it helped having someone with as much range as Jacoby Ellsbury playing next to him, but that is not to say Drew was any sort of slouch. His arm was just simply average, but the rest of his defense made up for it. His baserunning was also above average.

So while Drew was probably never worth the $14 million contract, it wasn't a total disaster as much of Boston will have you believe. Drew was a top-10 right fielder over the last five years, and played a key role on a World Series championship team. His possible retirement is sliding under the radar, something I am sure he isn't too broken up over. I hope that as people begin to understand the statistical side of the game, Drew will receive more credit for what he did for this team since 2007. I'm not holding my breath, though, as he'll always be the anti-Nick Punto.


  1. I would love to see him (albeit from my perspective) as the Yankees' DH. Great on-base guy.

  2. I could see him fitting with a number of teams as a left handed bat to get on base. However, I question if he even wants to continue playing since he was talking about retirement even before last season.