JD Drew's name isn't the only thing that worries me. But I'm not as worried as some, or even most Red Sox fans.
JD came to town last year with two major expectations:
#1: He'd get injured and miss 30 to 60 games
#2: He'd produce as a solid #5 hitter in the games that he did play
Neither one of these expectations came true. He played in 140 games, missing some time with minor problems. But he didn't produce that much.
His average wasn't horrible, .270 for a career .284 hitter isn't the end of the world. His OBP also wasn't horrible at .373. But these not horrible, not great numbers combined with a poor .423 slugging percentage. That's a significant drop from JD's career slugging of .500.
Let's try to figure out what JD's strong points were, and what were his biggest weaknesses.
JD's biggest weakness was against left-handed pitching. This is not a new thing for him. Since 2005, there's a .060 decrease in his average when facing lefties. His slugging also plummets .169 points.
In 2007, JD hit .224 against lefties, with an OBP of .285, and a slugging percentage of .353. Against righties, he hit .286, with a .400 OBP, and a .446 slugging percentage. But he still wasn't much of a power hitter.
JD didn't struggle at Fenway Park, either. He actually hit much better at home (.284 BA, .392 OBP) than on the road (.259 BA, .356 OBP). So adjusting to a new ballpark wasn't too much of a problem.
Drew's biggest problem was a lack of power. Every conceivable measurement of a hitter's power indicates this. And all us Sox fans who watched him during the year already knew it.
In his career, Drew averages hitting a homerun once every 21 at-bats. In '07, it was once every 42.4 ABs. His IsoP (Isolated Power, one of those stats Bill James and his cadre of baseball nerds came up with to show how much power a hitter had) was down from his career average, as was his Secondary average (again, Bill James).
What's strange was that his other numbers were within his career norms. He saw the same amount of pitches per at-bat. Walked and struck out at his normal rate. Hit groundballs to flyballs just as often as usual. Everything is the same, except the power numbers.
Perhaps it was adjusting to new pitchers in the AL. Against NL teams, Drew hit very well. In 58 Interleague at-bats, he hit .329 with a .391 OBP and a .603 slugging percentage. Granted, this was almost entirely against the NL West, which was particularly weak at the time. Nevertheless, that's pretty good for a 58 at-bat stretch.
Against AL opponents, Drew's average dips slightly to .262, and his slugging falls to .397. And oddly enough, against an NL team in the World Series, Drew hit .333 with a pair of doubles and two RBI.
So will JD Drew pull a Josh Beckett and explode in his second year? I think he will. At least, I think he'll improve. Look for Drew to hit .280, with 23 HRs, and 85 to 95 RBI.
One problem, though, is the lefties. And it's a problem which lacks much of a solution. If Crisp is still around, Ellsbury could move over to right, and Crisp could play center. But then you're replacing a guy who can't hit lefties with a guy who just can't hit. You'd also be keeping Ellsbury in against the lefty. Then again, Crisp hits lefties better than righties. Maybe it's not such a bad idea.
Whatever Drew does in 2008, the Sox are depending on him more than last year. Last year Mike Lowell came out of nowhere, and Ortiz played through his knee problems. This year, Lowell is another year older, God knows how Ortiz's knees will be, Manny's been falling off slowly the past few seasons, and there's a rookie in center field.
The Sox could really use Drew as a contributing member of the lineup. If he produces the way he's capable of, the top 6 in the order starts looking very good. And as a lefty Drew slots in behind Ramirez and in front of Lowell (both righties) very nicely.