JD Drew - The Optimist's View [Promoted Diary]

Given all the hand wringing about JD Drew I thought I'd take a closer look at the guy and see what we can expect in the future. In the tables below I've tried to outline why I think JD will be a much better addition come '08 than he was this year.

I looked at his offensive stats this year and compared them with his career best years for each stat and what team he was on when he achieved them. Then I estimated how much his stats would change if he performed at his lifetime average as well as a "breakout year" where he equaled his best performance.

[Note for stat junkies: I didn't correct for games played or number of at-bats in each season. Also I just took a normal average not a geometric average. Yeah, I'm lazy, so you'll have to take these numbers with a grain of salt, as they say. I did try to account for these factors in my qualitative assessments at the end however.]

Two things stand out when you look at Drew's numbers this year versus the past. The first is that in no category of offensive production has JD had a career year with the Sox. All of his best years were in the National League with 2004 as his over career high year so far. Worse yet, he's been below his career average for nearly every measurement of quality for his at-bats this year.

The silver lining in all this is that there seems to be nowhere to go but up. I think that he's due for an above average year as he settles in to the AL and the high pressure atmosphere in Boston. He hits less for power now than in the beginning of his career but is a much harder out and will likely improve in both OPS & Slugging, but more in the latter than the former. Still a lot more run production can be expected absent injury. Below I've detailed what I estimate the likelihood of improvement will be for JDs production based on his past stats.

* Runs: Slight Improvement - JD's performance in this category as actually been fairly close to average for his career, but he'll probably walk more and strike out about the same so it all averages out.

* Hits: Slight Improvement - Definitely running below average here so I would expect more hits and more hits for power.

* Extra Base Hits: No Improvement here really if we judge by history, but that doesn't include home runs.

* HR: Highly likely - Maybe it's just AL pitching, but I think that it seems very likely that we'll see 10 or more additional home runs from JD next year relative to this year. That will likely translate into 2 or more games in the win column too.

* RBI: Highly likely - Since we're likely to see JD up his power numbers, especially in the HR category, expect RBIs to improve by 10 to 20 next season.

* BB: Highly likely - All signs point to JD being a much harder out next year, especially in terms of walks.

* K: No Improvement - JD has actually struck out right near his career average so he'll likely keep going at this rate. It seems like he'll walk more and fly out less to make his at bats more meaningful.

* SB: No Improvement - stealing bases was something he stopped doing long ago. However, as an older, wiser player he might pick better key moments to steal a base.

* AVG: Highly likely - again his batting average is well below his more productive years. More walks are likely as his power numbers improve and pitchers get more wary of leaving one over the plate. There may be a Manny/Ortiz factor here as well. Since pitchers have been able to more readily pitch through those two, the pressure has doubled on JD and company to produce. It's hard to get patient at-bats in that situation. As the David and Manny show gets back on track and JD starts hitting more towards an average of home runs we may see a knock-on effect as pitchers face a more exhausting triple threat. Not say JD compares equally to those two, just that if you're a pitcher and you have to get past David Ortiz and THEN Manny Ramirez and THEN face a guy batting .300 with .450 slugging (25 HRs, 90+ RBIs), life gets alot more difficult. I have a feeling THIS was what Theo was seeing when he spent $12 million.

* OBP: Highly likely - there seems no doubt that JD will get on base more in the future. Again, I think as his power numbers improve pitchers will take a more cautious appraoch with more walks being the result.

* SLG: Highly likely - If we're lucky this guy is capable of hitting 30 home runs in a season. If Ortiz and Manny return to even an average level of HR production next year things will go very hard on opposing team pitchers trying to get through these three. More likely though we'll see Jay-dizzle become a good number two or six hitter along with Youk. If Lowell can stay as active next year as this, we will have an actual offense to be reckoned with.

* OPS: Highly likely - Again, not more doubles but walks and home runs will improve his overall ratio of power and getting on base relative to his number at bats.

Final points - Are you ready to cut Drew only to see him go elsewhere and produce like he did in '04?

The devils advocate would respond to all this with the observation that it's possible that JD Drew is a good hitter in the NL but in the AL he's just not worth $12 million.

I'd like to head off one area of discussion right away - Yes JD makes more than Ortiz but how many people think that Big Papi would get only a $12 million contract when he hits free-agency. NO WAY, NO HOW. So estimate THAT number before you compare their salaries. They just are not at equivalent stages of their careers at this point. Okay, enough -- your thoughts?