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Searching for the truth about J.D. Drew

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  June 23, 2011 12:22 PM

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Two e-mails in recent days termed J.D. Drew "a bust" with the Red Sox. I suspect this opinion is colored by how poor his 2011 season has been. But it raises a valid question: How good has he actually been for the Red Sox?

For any person in any occupation, it is fair to be judged against your peers. In this case, Drew is a right fielder in the American League and has been from 2007-2011. So I researched all American League players in those five years who played 65 percent or more of their games in right field and played a minimum of 400 games.

There were nine players who fit that criteria. Along with Drew, you had Bobby Abreu, Ichiro Suzuki, Jermaine Dye, Magglio Ordonez, Michael Cuddyer, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Shin-Soo Choo.

Here is what I found:

1. Ordonez .876
2. Choo .836
3. Cruz .852
4. Drew .835

(which adjusts to the league and home park)
1. Choo 136
2. Ordonez 130
3. Cruz 121
4. Abreu 118
5. Drew and Markakis 117

1. Abreu 414
2. Markakis 387
3. Ordonez 358
4. Cuddyer 321
5. Drew 282

1. Dye 89
2. Cruz 88
3. Drew 80

1. Abreu 386
2. Drew 327

1. Markakis 710
2. Suzuki 704
3. Abreu 692
4. Cuddyer 592
5. Drew 584 (out of a possible 722, that's 81 percent)

Drew is 9th with a .266 batting average. I suspect that is part of his problem with some fans. But an educated fan knows that OPS is a much more telling statistic than batting average.

Then we get to defense:

1. Suzuki 35.2
2. Rios 30.1
3. Drew 23.3

1 Suzuki 35.2
2. Rios 30.1
3. Drew 23.3

So by an objective measure, Drew has been one of the top three or four right fielders in the American League during his tenure in Boston. He has been durable, productive at the plate and efficient in the field.

Two issues cloud this measure:

Drew has made $14 million a year, making him one of the highest-paid players on the team. But, again, let's judge him by his peers in terms of age and position over those years:

Abreu's average salary: $11 million
Ordonez's average salary: $16 million
Suzuki's average salary: $15 million

Basically the Red Sox paid the going rate for a right fielder of his skills.

Drew is not a "dirt dog" player who throws his bat, gets ejected or says colorful things to the media.

I guess that's a personal preference. But if you try and use such measures to evaluate a player instead of cold, hard facts, you would last 20 minutes as a general manager. Abreu gets painted by the same brush. It's not fair and speaks more to the person who uses that brush.

That all said, this season has been ugly for Drew and it may not get any better. But that is the price you pay when you sign a player to a long-term contract as a free agent. Quite often, the final year becomes basically a pension.

That is true across the game. It's the cost of doing business. The Tigers are paying Ordonez $15 million this year and have gotten .176/.234/.252 over 33 games in return. Suzuki is hitting .279/.326 /.334 for Seattle at cost of $17 million and has $17 million guaranteed for next year.

Heck yeah, the Red Sox could use a better right fielder than what they have now. But to label J.D. Drew a bust is to not look at the facts.

In the end, he gave them what they paid for. Nothing is going to change that.

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