J.D. Drew Worth The Money

When J.D. Drew signed his 5 year, $70 million contract with the Red Sox, they were destroyed by national media writers such as Bill Simmons who pushed the narrative that Drew was an unclutch loser who couldn’t perform under pressure and wasn’t any good even when he was healthy. Theo Epstein and company were pilloried for their staunch desire to acquire a high on base outfielder and overlooking all the obvious flaws that made him such a bad player. Drew was held up as the example of the kind of move that statheads make when they don’t get their nose out of a spreadsheet.

Drew has news for that group of writers – you can all apologize now.

Drew has been absolutely sensational so far in 2008, putting up a .315/.424/.576 line that is the best of any American League outfielder. Only Milton Bradley (DH, plays in Texas) and Alex Rodriguez are posting a higher OPS than Drew, and his 2.00 WPA/LI ranks 4th in the league.

He’s doing it through his usual blend of patience (15.8% BB%, #4 in AL) and power (.261 ISO, T-4th in AL), reversing a decline in his isolated slugging percentage over the last few years. His performance has kept the Boston offense rolling despite the struggles and then injury to David Ortiz, and right now, he’s pretty clearly the Red Sox best player.

In the year and a half he’s been with Boston, he’s been worth about 25 runs more than an average hitter. Depending on what you think of his defense, the conclusion is that Drew has been worth about 4 to 5 wins above a replacement level right fielder during his time in Boston. Wins are going for close to $5 million apiece in the free agent market, so if Drew was compensated fairly, we’d expect that he’d have earned between $20-$25 million for his work. Thanks to a $14 million average annual payout, we know that the Red Sox have paid him about $20 million since the contract kicked in – pretty much dead on what he’s been worth.

J.D. Drew is a very good baseball player. The Red Sox are a very good organization. The narrative about both of them was wrong.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


15 Responses to “J.D. Drew Worth The Money”

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  1. Nathan says:

    Having never followed Drew’s career, could somebody who has possibly explain to me how he managed to acquire the “unclutch” and “bum/loser” tags in the first place? Every clutch split at Baseball Reference (with the lone exception of a .273/.375/.439 Late & Close line) shows his high leverage numbers being perfectly in line with his borderline Hall of Fame career metrics, and FanGraphs bears this out with a career 0.41 Clutch rating.

    Anyway, 5 wins above replacement looks right (BP says about five and a half), although most estimates I see value a marginal win closer to three million per. Either way–and especially given Boston’s budget–I’d say this has been a perfectly fair deal thus far.

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  2. nygaard says:

    I think maybe you should look at Drew’s 2007 stats (.796 OPS) and his 2008 home/away splits 1.103 vs .913. Also keep in mind the small sample size you are using to justify you argument ( basically 250 PA in 2008) When healthy, Drew is a good (not great) player. He is on the wrong side of 30 and has had over 500 PA in a season exactly 3 times. He will break down. The Sox can afford to pay him $14 mil, which is probably what he is worth. This is not a genius signing, it is not horrible. No apology is needed.

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  3. Nathan says:

    Furthermore, why were my consecutive hyphens reduced to a single hyphen? It makes me angry when I don’t get my way…

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  4. Nathan says:

    The clutch numbers I cited were his career splits, but I couldn’t decide whether to word it “clutch career split” or “career clutch split”, and since both looked clumsy anyway, I decided to omit the word “career”. My bad.

    For quick reference, his career OPS with…

    …bases empty: .897
    …runners on: .896
    …men in scoring position: .906

    And by leverage:

    High: .904
    Medium: .925
    Low: .869

    Funny you should chide me for using a small sample size (which I wasn’t anyway) right after you cited your own numbers using the exact same sample. The home/road discrepancy was the same reason they cited to predict Johnny Damon’s post-Fenway downfall, and look at him now. Thirty-four years old and posting the highest OPS of his career. His overall Yankee line has been every bit as good as his Boston line. Besides, about 75 points of Drew’s 190 point home/road differential, as small a sample as it is, can be explained by a huge discrepancy in walk rates (20.3% at home, 11.0% on the road) that has (almost?) nothing to do with Fenway’s friendly hitting environment, resulting in an on-base percentage 80 points higher at home despite a batting average only 6 points higher. Furthermore, his raw power splits (total bases per hit) were nearly identical last year (1.56 at home, 1.57 away).

    Anyway, the concerns regarding his proneness to injury are completely legit, but my evaluation of the deal hinged on two operative words: thus far. If he stays healthy this year while continuing to post a .900+ OPS the rest of the way, he’ll have more or less earned the $28 million in toto due him by season’s end. What the following three seasons hold for him, however, is yet to be seen, and it’s certainly possible that his contract may end up being yet another cautionary tale.

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  5. Nick says:

    Nathan, nobody who cites a players “unclutchness” as a reason not to sign them is looking at any numbers, whether they support the stance or not. You’re being far too rational

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  6. Nathan says:

    That’s why I was curious how he managed to get saddled with such clearly untrue labels in the first place. Selection bias?

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  7. gerry says:

    Anyone being worth $14M per year for doing anything at all is, on the face of it, absurd. But, as this amount is more than hafway to the top of baseball’s payscale, the real bottom line is how this player, J.D. Drew, delivers on the field. He is currently delivering at the $20M level. This could end tomorrow, or continue indefinitely, and can not be anticipated, and therefore not debated. I have watched JD Drew for years, including FSU. The phrase used above “borderline HOF career” is apt, because if he pulls to Williamsberg or tattoos the wall he could still be a candidate. If so, his contract is a steal.

    Last year, playing without serious injury, in a new league and new town and with a hurt child, he struggled. JD’s values are decidedly country, and alot hit him at once. Please note that immediately upon his son getting out of the body cast, he began hitting, developing momentum through the post-season which is, indeed, making him one of the best players in the game today, with glove, arm, heads-up play, ability to grind pitchers down, perpetually high OBP and OPS, and now the long balls, runs and rbi’s. At $14M this year, vs. some of the overpaid slugs out there, JD can be considered a bargain who is winning ball games and propelling the Sox to a Repeat.

    Cam he keep up the pace? Will he get injured? Is he too old? He has been mostly healthy since he arrived in Beantown, and seems to be getting stronger. We can always find contrary stats, but he will be at Manny’s current age and level of fitness at the end of his contract, and will probably still be putting up Manny-like numbers. This, in the whacky world of baseball salaries, makes him a bargain, enhanced by 2009-2011 $$ standards. It’s time to give him his props, as he deserves them. Or, ny . . . go pick on Zito or Pavano.

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  8. msfan32 says:

    unfortunately this writer is a hack. I fully expect to get blocked for saying that as on his site he blocks anyone who doesn’t kiss his arse on a daily basis and praise every word he writes. Truth be told if he ever ran a MLB team it would finish last year after year and be full of prospects that supposedly can’t miss. Many have already got banned off his site for calling him on his fairly inappropriate mancrush on Snelling.

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  9. jbh says:

    Wait, is someone really that delusional to mention JD Drew as a Hall Of Fame candidate? The HOF is for the greatest ball players of all time; Drew is a solid player, at best. He won’t even be on the ballot…

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  10. Scappy says:

    The Boston media scrutinizes and forgets easily, the fans scrutinize and never forget. Drew started 07 hot and that began to do very poorly for a solid stretch. After the all star break he was one of the better hitters on the team. In fact all of his numbers were better than fan favorite, Youkilis.

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  11. Scappy says:

    jbh, I think of him like Jim Rice V2.0. Baseball-Reference compares him to Jim Edmunds, kirk gibson, and david justice. I don’t think using the term borderline hall of famer is a bad label.

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  12. Nathan says:

    jbh, I said borderline Hall of Fame career *metrics*, not borderline Hall of Fame career. His résumé (I hope that renders properly) has been marred by far too much missed time to have any consideration for the Hall barring an utterly miraculous and improbable string of injury-free seasons at his currently established level of production, but I think that .287/.392/.506 from a competent right fielder is a more than reasonable line for a fringe Hall of Famer.

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  13. Kyle says:

    Hmm, someone here is thinking that 2008 might have been the exception, not the rule. Looks like JD is back to doing what he does best, not performing.

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  14. Myke says:

    kyle, whats it like being an idiot?

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    • Andrew says:

      jd drew…just killing the ball with his .240/.362/.449 line.

      he’s not even putting up raul ibanez numbers, in fact well below them (not on track for 20 HRs or even 75 RBIs) and getting paid $14 mill. yea clearly he is a superstar slugger.

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