Red Sox right-fielder J.D. Drew turns 34 today. Since his arrival in Boston, he has become an easy target for talk show hosts, sportswriters and even the occasional blogger. Personally, I can’t recall the number of times I have cynically predicted a weak Drew ground ball to second base only to see it materialize before my exasperated eyes. And, of course, he has the image of the oft-injured, passionless robot–the latter charge being best personified by his casualness in the batter’s box as Jacoby Ellsbury stole home against the Yankees.
But baseball, unlike other sports, lends itself to a more dispassionate appraisal of players. You can look back over a long career and assess the arc of someone’s achievements in the light of cold, hard stats.
J.D. Drew has played baseball in the major leagues for 12 seasons–the last three for the Red Sox. He has compiled a career on-base percentage of .392 (exactly what he achieved in 2009). This is considered very good, and not just by the on-base geeks who rule baseball today. He gets on base and he scores–a lot (a career average 103 runs a year). And while his strikeouts and ground balls to second base result in a career batting average of .283, there are a lot of players who would surrender their back-up Maserati for that number. Oh, and his defense is as solid as most who have patrolled right field at Fenway.
On the brittleness issue, Drew has average 121 games per year in the 11 seasons he has been a legitimate starter–not great, but not exactly a no-show. And, let’s not forget his performances in the post-season for the Red Sox–hitting .286 with 4 home runs and 19 RBI. It’s interesting how many fans forget his dramatic first-inning grand slam in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS against the Indians–a key turning point in that championship season.
So, is he overpaid by a “tick”? Come on, aren’t they all? Happy Birthday, J.D.