The game’s on the line. Who do you want at the plate, Varitek or Drew?

September 16th, 2007 → 12:35 pm @ // 16 Comments

Two games at Fenway left me with one sleepless night, one satisfying TKO, nine hours of sitting on my ass in my wooden seats in Section 17, and one excruciating backache; seriously, I haven’t hurt this bad in a good long time.

It also left me a new appreciation with the strange plight of J.D. Drew. Drew had ten at-bats in the two games, going three for eight with three singles, two walks, and two RBIs. (He also reached base on an error.) He had some hard-hit balls that didn’t get through—a shot down the first-base line in the first inning of yesterday’s game stands out—and several critical at-bats: his six-pitch walk led off yesterday’s four-run, five-pitcher seventh inning, and his leadoff single in the ninth inning of Friday’s game made him the first Boston batter to reach base on a hit or a walk since the sixth inning. Think about that for a moment: after the Yankees’ seventh-inning blitzkrieg, the Yankees retired nine out of ten batters, which obviously includes Pedroia, Ortiz, Lowell, Youkilis, and Ellsbury (who struck out on three pitches to end the game). The only rays of hope were when Lowell reach on a passed-ball K in the eighth and when Drew singled off of Riviera to start the ninth.

All of which is fine and good; what struck me, however, was how many times Drew came to bat with two outs and men in scoring position. Take a quick guess. OK, time’s up. I bet not many of you guessed five. That’s right: fully fifty percent of the time, Drew was at the plate with two outs and RISP. Out of those five at bats, he was two-for-four with a walk (for you statheads, that’s an OBP of .600). And yet? Drew was the only member of the team I heard booed at Fenway. You know who didn’t get booed? The guy with the next highest number of two out at-bats with RISP: Cap’n Jason Varitek (rapidly becoming the Sox’s own Captain Intangibles—because, you know, he calls a great game even if he’s batting .253, is ahead of only Lugo and Crisp in OBP, and isn’t great at throwing out runners). Tek went 0-for-8 with a pair of walks in the series’ first two games. He came to the plate four times with 2 out and RISP and went 0-for-4 without ever getting the ball out of the infield. (In yesterday’s game, Tek grounded to first on two pitches with runners and second and third in the first and popped up to second on two pitches with the bases loaded in the third; at that point, Wang had walked the previous three batters, included the previous two on a total of 10 pitches.)

That’s not knocking Tek (although I wasn’t a fan of the four-year deal he got after the ’04 season, not so much because he was so overpaid but because it meant the Sox were committing to someone who increasingly seems overmatched at the plate through next season). It is trying to highlight just how hard things are for J.D. at the moment. He’s hitting the ball well, he’s getting on base consistently, he’s working walks, and the crowd still hates him. I know major leaguers are supposed to be immune to that sort of stuff. But it can’t help…


Post Categories: 2007 Season & J.D. Drew & Jason Varitek & Red Sox Fans & Yankees

16 Comments → “The game’s on the line. Who do you want at the plate, Varitek or Drew?”


  1. rog

    10 years ago

    I think that Drew is the recipient of the lifetime underachievement award and that he is going to have to do a hell of a lot more than walk to start an inning to get the Fenway crowd behind him. Maybe Tek’s built up goodwill over the years and is now getting a free pass now that he clearly doesn’t have much offense left in the tank, which I don’t have a problem with. It does bother me, though, that Tek is batting so high up in the order since he has ALWAYS sucked with RISP (especially with the bases loaded…look it up) and for that I fault one Terry Jon Francona. When Capt. Intangibles went on the DL last year, we saw what he does bring in the way of preparation and game-calling. Can’t deny that. Yes, he should be batting ninth, no, I don’t think Drew will ever be a good investment for this team, and maybe he’ll feel the same in the offseason and demand a trade.

    Reply

  2. kinshane

    10 years ago

    Mnookster, you’re right. Leave the booing of your own players to Stankees’ fans. I think JD will have the target on his back at least through next season. It’s all about that fat contract.

    Reply

  3. johnw

    10 years ago

    Here’s another comparison for you: J.D. Drew and Johnny Damon. They’e almost identical in 2007 production — actually, Drew’s a tick better in BA, OBA and slugging. And at this point in their careers, Drew is a dramatically better defensive player. But of course, Damon is a gritty gamer, while Drew is a mope.

    I’m not saying that Drew isn’t a disappointment, especially for the money he’s getting. But he doesn’t deserve all the abuse he’s getting. (Some, but not all.) There are also two big reasons to think 2007 is an aberration:

    — players who change leagues often have a rough transition year.

    — Drew’s son has had some really significant medical troubles. He doesn’t talk about it, but it has to have an effect on him.

    I’d expect him to bounce back in 2008. Not that it helps the Sox win in 2007.

    Reply

  4. Shalomar

    10 years ago

    I read that Tek asked the fans to cheer JD Drew, as they did for Lugo when he was struggling. Didn’t hear it on the tube – was there any cheering?

    Reply

  5. Jack

    10 years ago

    I gave him a standing-o during every one of his plate appearances on Saturday and everyone in my section (sec 139 row LL) thought I was nuts. That is until he hit the game-winning RBI and I turned around and went, “HUH? HUH? JD DREWWWWWWWWW, PEOPLE!!!”

    Now, while I was clapping and cheering for him I was admittedly saying things like, “Yaaaaay JD, we love you so much when you can’t get the runner in from third with less than two outs!!! Yaaayyy!” and “Yaaaay JD, you’ll probably only strikeout and not ground into a double play. Yaaayyyy!”

    Reply

  6. rln2433

    10 years ago

    JD has established himself in too many games as a guy who won’t take the bat of his shoulder and that doesn’t go over well. His dead fish persona doesn’t help either. (Youk strikes out plenty but he shows some heart…maybe too much but that’s another discussion) Stats are stats but perception makes a big difference in the eyes of fans in terms of who they root for. JD sold himself for $14 million a year and didn’t deliver.

    The Sox have a big problem though and that is they lack a viable replacement for Tek.

    Reply

  7. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    I sympathize with Drew only because his role as one of the original Boras Bonus Babies turned him off to fans forever, and that seems a little unfair. But it is what it is, and I assume the millions of dollars he banked right out high school have helped him tolerate the lack of love shown by his audience ever since. He seems like a good player who’s had a bad year; I’m not sure it’s any more interesting than that. It happens. I can’t say that he’s ever appeared to be slacking off, though obviously it’s easier to feel confident in a guy’s “fire” when he makes a show of it (à la Trot or Youk) and looks agitated, sweaty, and constipated all the time. Fans should, of course, withhold final judgment until after at least one more season from J.D., but as always it’s “What have you done for me lately?”

    Reply

  8. sfcrotty

    10 years ago

    You’re not doing Drew any favors comparing him to Damon. Drew…um…drew more walks this year (73-65), but he also struck out a lot more (94-75).

    The stat that I think contributes a lot to Damon’s plate presence is that even when he doesn’t get a hit, he seems to get work long at-bats by fouling stuff off that he can’t handle while J.D. seems to just let it go by and takes his chances. This year Damon has averaged 4.32 pitches per plate appearance, Drew has averaged 3.94. For comparison:

    Kevin Youkilis: 4.28
    Todd Helton: 4.41
    Ichiro Suzuki: 3.72 (but with a .353 BA, he’s not messing around driving up pitch counts, he’s just hitting everything he sees)

    Reply

  9. dbvader

    10 years ago

    Small sample size and they play different positions. The ML OPS for catchers is .713, for RF’s it is .800. Varitek’s is .770 and Drew’s is .757.

    Reply

  10. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    Seth, I think it’s time for a post about Eric Gagné and Curt Schilling being left in the game by Francona when it’s plainly obvious that they’re about to blow the lead. First Schilling being left in to face Jeter despite giving up rockets to Eyechart and then Giambi. Now Gagné being left in to walk in the tying run and a two-run liner. STUPID.

    As Remy suggested during Gagné’s implosion tonight, now is not a great time to be experimenting with pitchers or massaging their egos by giving them chances to prove their worth.

    Reply

  11. Mr. Furious

    10 years ago

    I keep pulling for Drew, and each time he comes up in one of those situation, especially against the Yanks, I’m thinking, “Come on, J.D. erase it all with a bomb or ringing double here…”

    He hasn’t pulled it off yet. But I am giving him a pass this season. As mentioned above, new league, personal issues.

    It’s the Youks and Teks that are making me more crazy. Varitek should be hitting eighth, and never sooner. Youk’s “intensity” has been grating on me all year. He’s become the Sox’s Paul On’Neill, and we probably all hated O’Neill, right? But that gets him a pass with the “fans,” when in fact, he’s been among the worst hitters on the team since July.

    Any reason why Cora played ahead of Clayton in Toronto? I can’t think of one. Give the guy with the axe to grind a chance, I say…

    Reply

  12. rog

    10 years ago

    Gagné is the Vagisil Player of The Year™.

    Reply

  13. MSGiro

    10 years ago

    Seth, I love you man, but I’m so perplexed by your defense of JD. Bottom line he’s terrible. After 150 games you would think he’s figure out how to stop turning his wrists over every single time he made contact with the ball. How many straight as an arrow fastballs can he get on top of? OPS, OBP and every other silly stat mean nothing compared to RBIs. I could care less if he batted .253 with an OBP of .310 as long as he had 25 HR and 100 RBI. Same with Varitek. I call those two the AO’s; Automatic Outs and when there are RISP they are as guaranteed to make an out as we are to see the sun rise and set every day. What’s scary is you can add Lugo to the mix as well. None of what transpired last night surprised me. The weak hit (a staple of Lugo’s) and lack of hustle summed up his entire season at the plate. Watching these guys bat with men on and two out is like viewing “Groundhog’s Day” over and over and over again.

    Reply
  14. […] My last post was on September 16 — last Sunday, which, as it happens, was the day after the Sox’s 10-1 win. They haven’t won since — that’s four straight games, for those keeping track at home — and the Yankees haven’t lost since. There are two possible reasons for this: 1. I am being punished for the decrease in posting frequency, or 2. I am being punished for defending JD Drew. Drew hit a homer last night, so I refuse to believe that’s the cause. So I’m sticking with 1. Ergo, here’s a post. Now: enough of this crap. Let’s finish this thing. […]

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  15. […] It was mid-September when I first pointed out that fans were booing Drew unfairly; he responded by going on a mini-tear for the rest of the month. He’s only heated up since then. In the last five games—the three elimination matches with Cleveland and the first two games of the Series—Drew has gone 9-for-17 with 8 RBIs, 5 runs, two doubles, and a homer. (That’s good for a line of .529 BA, .579 OBP, .842 SLG, 1.421 OPS.) And a good number of those hits have been important ones. There was, of course, the dagger through the heart grand slam against the Indians. There was also his line drive single into right field in Game Two which was the first hit of the game for the Sox and also set up the game’s first run. […]

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  16. […] the eight games since my September 16th post about the ongoing saga (and my defense) of J.D. Drew, the Sox’s much maligned right fielder has gone 7-for-25 with 2 doubles, 2 homers, and 6 […]

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