Where have you gone, J.D. Drew…a nation turns its sleepy eyes to you

October 1st, 2008 → 10:25 am @

I’ve been a fan Millers Falls statistician Chuck Waseleski — whose telling (and not so telling) bits of arcana have appeared the Globe under the heading “From the maniacal one” for lo these many years. There are a couple of particularly interesting tidbits in today’s end-of-season offering, including the fact that J.D. Drew had the most game-winning RBIs on the Sox this year, with 11.

I’ve always been a fan of Drew’s — he doesn’t get enough credit from the hoi polloi for his defense because he makes it look fairly effortless and he has a gorgeous swing — but even so, this surprised me. The guy, after all, missed almost a third of the season’s games — and of the games he did play in he had two or fewer at-bats in 14, including three games in which he had no official plate appearances. I’m in the school that feels that when you have a bunch of mid-30s players on your roster (Drew turns 33 in December; Lowell turns 35 in February; Tek will turn 37 (!) the first week of the ’09 season) you can’t ascribe injuries to just bad luck. It’s still painful to think of what the Sox would look like going into the playoffs with all of their starters healthy.

Two other things that popped out at me:

* Boston was 29-32 against the AL East in games not started by Jon Lester (this stat actually isn’t among Chuck’s offerings; I got it by doing some super advanced math and subtracting Lester’s 9-2 ALE record from the team’s 38-34 record against other teams in its division).

* 81 percent of Dice-K’s K’s were of the swinging variety. I’m not sure if that makes it more or less surprising that he had so many walks.

OK. Time for a nap in preparation for tonight’s 10:07 game time.

Post Categories: 2008 Playoffs & Chuck Waseleski & Daisuke Matsuzaka & J.D. Drew & Jon Lester

Murray Chass finally gets one right

December 4th, 2007 → 10:46 am @

“The National Baseball Hall of Fame has become a national joke.”

— Murray Chass, “Omitting Miller Not Surprising, but Still Embarrassing,” The New York Times, December 4, 2007

“Murray Chass, a reporter for The New York Times, was elected Sunday as the winner of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, presented annually for contributions to baseball writing, and he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., next summer.”

— “Chass to Enter Hall of Fame,” December 15, 2003

(Curiously, Chass’s official page on the Hall’s site is…blank.

Post Categories: J.D. Drew

The J.D. Drew files: Fenway Fans Fail in Fall

October 27th, 2007 → 1:17 pm @

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.

And yet…and yet. Despite optimistic articles proclaiming Drew a fan-favorite, he was greeted was as many muffled boos as anything else during Game 1; his hits, meanwhile, seemed to inspire confusion as much as anything. (Slate’s John Swansburg noticed much the same thing during Game 2, which he happened to witness from the vantage point of my seats along the first-base line.) I obviously love the Red Sox; I also love Boston. Sox fans, however…well, let’s just say I don’t always love them quite so much.

Post Categories: 2007 World Series & J.D. Drew & Red Sox Fans

More evidence of my good karma: the J.D. Drew files.

September 26th, 2007 → 10:16 am @

In 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 RBIs. (That’s good for a hitting line of .280, .357, .643, .1.000.) That’s actually a fall-off from what he’s done overall in the month of September, in which his line reads .323, .443, .565, 1.008 with 3 HRs and 12 RBIs. Here’s one more way to slice this pie: in about 13 percent of the season’s games, he’s hit 30 percent of his home runs and racked up 20 percent of his ribbies.

Granted, that only works out to about 20 homers and 88 RBIs over the course of a full season – but his 15 runs works out to 110 over a full 162 games…and having a guy with a slugging percentage in the mid-.500s hitting in the 5th spot offers a decent amount of protection to whoever is in there batting clean-up.

Two things I’ve noticed—both of which Remy pointed out in last night’s broadcast—were that J.D. seemed to swinging more, and more aggressively, at the first fastball he sees and that he’s using some of his opposite field pop to take advantage of the Wall in left. Whatever else is going on, if it continues it bodes well for the Sox in the playoffs.

Post Categories: 2007 Playoffs & 2007 Spring Training & J.D. Drew

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

September 16th, 2007 → 12:35 pm @

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

The key to the Sox’s OF offense…J.D. Drew

September 12th, 2007 → 10:51 am @

Last night might not have been the smoothest game ever played, but man, it’s fun to watch those wild and wooly slugfests. Anyway, my favorite part about last night was JD’s line: three-for-four, an impressive solo homer, and a ten-pitch walk. I’m not entirely sure why I’m rooting so hard for him — after all, it’s not like a guy with a $70 million contract needs my sympathy — but I am. His recent clutch-failings notwithstanding, Drew’s September has looked much more like what the Sox brass (presumably) expected when they signed him to a five-year deal: a .296 average, a .432 OBP, a .519 slugging percentage, and a .951 OPS. You wouldn’t be crazy to look at his year-long stats (.259, .362, .393, .755) and view the last nine games as an anomaly; in fact, they’re more representative of a schizophrenic season: mediocre April, horrible May, fantastic June (.305, .404, .558, .962), shitty July. Thus far, September is the first month in which Drew is threatening to put up back-to-back appealing stats (August line: .289, .366, .422, .888). He’s done so pretty much under the radar, due to any number of factors, including but not limited to Manny’s absence, Ellsbury’s explosion, DP’s ROY push, Dice-K’s meltdown, the Yankees’ surge…well, you get the idea. Another thing about JD that’s gone (mostly) unnoticed is his defense — along with Crisp, he makes up the best right-center Red Sox defensive combo since, well, since Lynn-Dewey in the late ’70s.

If JD keeps up any facsimile of his recent performance, and if Manny isn’t checked out when he returns, the Sox are going to have an enviable outfield rotation, with three offensive forces (Man-Ram, JDD, and Jacoby), three good-to-great defensive players (Jacoby, Coco, JDD), two speed threats on the basepaths (Coco, Jacoby), and one complete enigma (Man-Ram)…

Post Categories: 2007 Season & J.D. Drew

Me and Julio: the 2nd half drags on the offense (it’s not who you think)

August 22nd, 2007 → 9:50 am @

It’s been a curious season…to say the least. While I know I remain in the minority in claiming that thus far this season, Coco has been the team’s MVP — and as far as I’m concerned, it’s really not even that close — there are likely a much higher number of folks who share my sentiment that Hideki “Darkman” Okajima and Mike “Don’t Call it a Comeback” Lowell are the next two most valuable members of the Crimson Hose. (Why Okie and not Paps? Well, Papelbon was expected to dominate; Okie has saved the bullpen time and time again, and more than a few times has enabled JP to be in a position to get that save in the ninth. As for Lowell, well, he’s picked up an oddly anemic offense.)

But the fact that I consider a center fielder who was almost booed out of Boston a linchpin of the team doesn’t begin to describe the oddities we’re witnessing.To show you just how weird, here’s a quick pop quiz:

Who’s been he worst offensive player on the Sox since the All-Star break?

Nope, you guessed wrong.

And wrong again.

And wrong again.

The correct answer? Kevin Youkilis, who’s put up a .210 BA and a .653 OPS. The only other regular player that comes close to this level of ineptitude has been V-Tek, weighing in at .229 and .669. Here’s the rest of the starting nine (post AS-break only):

Papi: .326, .982
Man Ram: .302, .914
Lowell: .345, .901
DP: .338, .830
Julio “Down by the Schoolyard” Lugo: .326, .810
CC Rider: .290, .774
JDD: .271, .735

So what does this mean? Well, for one thing, it might mean that Youk — who’s been striking out and swinging at bad pitches more than I’ve seen in the past — was talking to himself more than Dustin when he warned of the exhausting rigors of a baseball season. (Seriously, can you imagine wind-up Pedroia ever running out of gas?)

It also shows something interesting about the nature of baseball fandom. My purely unscientific poll shows that some large majority of Sox fans view Julio as the biggest drag on the offense, followed by Coco and Drew; in fact, Lugo is handily topping Tek and Drew in a lot of offensive categories — including RBIs — and is only two ribbies behind Youk (61 to 63) even though he’s hit in the 1 or 9 spots 93 percent of the time; Tek, meanwhile, has gotten 81 percent of his ABs in the 7 spot; Youk has had 85 percent of his in the 2 or 5; and Drew has somehow racked up 73 percent in the five hole.

The moral of the story? If you’re gonna suck, do it in the latter half of the season. By that time, your numbers have been seared into folks brains, and your season-long averages won’t ever look truly atrocious. Maybe next year, Julio. Maybe next year.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Coco Crisp & Hideki Okajima & J.D. Drew & Julio Lugo & Kevin Youkilis & Mike Lowell & Oblique references to Simon and Garfunkel songs