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Stephen Drew's Ankle And His Defense

A fractured ankle ruined Stephen Drew's 2011 and his defense, but what can Boston expect all this time later?

Christian Petersen

In 2011, Stephen Drew fractured his ankle thanks to a collision at home plate with Milwaukee Brewers' catcher Jonathan Lucroy. While Drew's bat had started out slow that season, his defense had been the same as it ever was. Because of the fracture and subsequent surgery to repair the damage, though, Drew had much less range the following season, when he didn't even return to the field until nearly July.

Unsurprisingly, Drew's defense was not as good after the major ankle injury. That doesn't mean he'll never be useful with the glove again, but it's something to consider in 2013 -- there's a possible downside for Drew even if his bat comes back, as his ankle could turn out to be something that bothers him and reduces his range beyond just last year.

Here's a look at Drew's last three seasons of defensive numbers, as well as his injured half-season from 2012, using various metrics from Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Prospectus, respectively:

2009 3 1.6 4.6
2010 9 0.7 -1.7
2011 5 0.8 -2.5
2012 -5 -0.3 -4.1

dWAR is defensive wins above replacement, so you should read that next to the others more like 16 runs, 7 runs, 8 runs, and -3 runs. FRAA thinks a little less of Drew than the others, but has the same kind of dip in defensive ability shown. Basically, Drew was a bit above-average in the past, but regardless of where he started in each stat, fell to below-average in 2012, despite playing just half a season. While defensive metrics are a bit unwieldy at times, and unreliable, these figures match up well with scouting reports of Drew, who always had range, but just a passable arm for the position.

These declining figures do not mean Drew is going to be this bad or worse in 2013, as he's had even more time to recover and has an off-season to regain strength and functionality that he didn't before. In addition, there's reason to think that, in the long run, the ankle injury will end up being good for his defense as he gets older and his natural talents begin to fade anyway. In reference to whether his ankle bothered him last year, a scout told Maureen Mullen of that...

"I think that's going to be somewhat lingering," said the scout. "But he adjusted to having it not in the best of shape by positioning a little better. The range that he had, that may come back. But he became a smarter player. I think a lot of players, when they get hurt they don't know how to deal with it. But he's always been a real baseball player."

Dustin Pedroia doesn't have the kind of range it looks like he does at second base. His range is good, yes, but his range looks amazing. The reason for that is his positioning -- Pedroia positions himself at second as well as anyone else at the keystone. This positioning allows him to be, well, in a position to make even the most difficult plays at second, as he's already given himself something of a head start. Even if Drew doesn't work his range back 100 percent to where it was pre-injury, if he's positioning himself better these days, and is smarter about playing shortstop, he'll be able to do fine for himself and the Red Sox. He might not be Jose Iglesias out there, but at the plate, that's not a bad thing.