Stephen Drew Goes to Beantown

The perennially blah Stephen Drew is packing his bags again, this time heading to Boston after signing with the Red Sox last week. Drew was limited to just about a half season worth of at-bats after a long recovery from an ankle injury that cut his 2011 season short. It ended up being his worst offensive performance, as he mustered just a .291 wOBA. Now taking his craft to New England, let’s find out if park factors will help him at all.

Since he spent the majority of his career in Arizona, I decided not to include the Oakland Coliseum. Here are the relevant left-handed park factors:

Ballpark K 1B HR Runs
Fenway Park 103 107 80 107
Chase Field 100 98 103 113

Drew’s contact rate has really jumped around throughout his career. During his rookie season, he made contact at a well below average level, but then quickly improved and sustained that through 2010. Then in 2011, his contact rate declined and it fell further this past season. Oddly, he’s not swinging and missing more at all (stable SwStk%), but rather just not swinging as often, which has likely led to more strikeouts looking. Unfortunately, Fenway Park increases strikeouts for left-handed hitters, so he won’t get any help from his park in reversing the trend.

Fenway Park has always increased hits due to the presence of the Green Monster. Despite posting a ridiculously high line drive rate, Drew is coming off the second worst BABIP of his career. In fact, his xBABIP was actually .336, significantly above what he actually recorded. Over his career, his BABIP is just slightly better than the league average, so the move to Boston should help ensure he rebounds strongly.

Home runs by left-handed hitters have always been difficult to come by in Boston, unless the hitter has the power to go the opposite way and lift the ball over the Green Monster or pulls it right down the line by Pesky’s Pole. On the other hand, Chase Field has historically boosted home runs. Of course, even with Chase Field’s magic, Drew has never posted a HR/FB above 10%, which is around the league average. Heading into his age 30 season, it might be time to give up on a true power surge, and the park switch is going to make it even more difficult for a spike to manifest.

Comparing overall run environments, both parks inflate offense for left-handed hitters. However, Chase Field is even more of a hitter’s park, so the switch is once again unfavorable. So on the whole, Drew should see a boost in BABIP, but that’s about it. This looks like a pretty bad move for Drew’s offensive performance.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Mr Punch
Mr Punch

The LF wall is not the sole factor increasing offense at Fenway – the small amount of foul territory also helps, although recently built parks have less foull ground than the all-purpose stadiums (like Oakland).