Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Undefeated

Of course, this is referring to the Boston Red Sox with JD Drew as the leadoff hitter!  This is something I endorsed whole-heartedly in 2011 and in 2010, and started hinting at as far back as 2009.  I got a haircut that ended up too long, mostly because I was arguing with my barber about why JD should be leading off.  And here we are with the Red Sox at 4-11 without JD Drew leading off.

They are 2-0 WITH JD Drew leading off.  Drew has previously stated that he doesn't like to lead off.  However, it can probably be argued that he doesn't really like to play baseball anywhere in the lineup, so whatever.  From here on in I'm going to try to momentarily refrain from my trademark JD bashing and instead provide some analysis here.  But let's look at the two games here.

Points from Monday afternoon:
1.  JD led off the game with a triple.  Cool.  From here, the guys who are prone to hitting the ball and getting RBIs (Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis) have an opportunity to hop up on top 1-0.  This didn't happen, of course, as Pedroia walked instead.  But the bottom line is, Drew got an extra-base hit, something that happens reasonably often.  Leading off with a double (or triple) will force the pitcher to pitch a little more carefully to the #2 hitter, resulting in walks and putting two guys on in front of the mashers.  Drew later scored.
2.  In the second inning, JD walked with two outs.  This brought up Pedroia, who is not only going to be a .300 hitter, give or take, but is also a guy who had 102 doubles in his last two full seasons.  This results in - bingo - runs!  Drew at leadoff results in a greater chance of a two-out rally.  Putting him at the 7th spot in front of Varilamacchia results in a walk being completely wasted.
3.  In the fourth inning, JD hit an infield single.  Consider the remote possibility that the player formerly known at 46 actually gets on base.  He gets a lot of stolen bases.  If 46 singles and steals second, all it takes is a ground ball into the shift to potentially score the one-tool player.

Which brings us to today's game:
1.  JD hit a home run in the seventh inning with one out.  As much as I dislike this player, the fact that he has hit 81 home runs while a member of the Red Sox (along with the nearly 400 weak ground balls to the right side) is not even up for debate.  The guy has pop, especially on Friday nights and/or against the Baltimore Orioles.
2.  Varitek and 46 both went hitless today.  Theo Epstein said it himself the day sabermetrics died to me:  JD does the single most important thing you can do as an offensive player, and that's get on base.  (I might be able to use some quotation fingers here, but I don't feel like looking it up.)  JD gets on base roughly 38-39% of the time.  Putting a guy like this on base in front of the two players who pretty much can't hit (Varilamacchia and 46) would mean that if there are two outs, the inning is over.  If there is one out, the inning is over.  If there are no outs, the leadoff hitter (be it Crawford, Lowrie, Pedroia, or whoever) would have to have fun with two.  Drew at seventh is rally prevention.

Drew at the top of the order, with the risk of sounding like Eric Ortiz, is asking for 3-4 rallies per game that otherwise would not happen.  The Red Sox are undefeated with JD Drew leading off.  They'll probably win an additional 100 games between now and the rest of the season if they kept on doing that.  But this is only becasue JD is only playing 100 more games this year due to sore glove hand, dehydration, vertigo, sore hamstring, sore back, away games in Philadelphia, and general apathy.

9 comments:

Patrick said...

i'm in complete agreement with you here, gm, that leadoff is the best spot for jd drew. now, if carl crawford was hitting, i wouldn't advocate drew batting 1, even though it is the best spot for him. because one of the first two spots is also the best place for crawford. with pedroia occupying the other of the top 2 spots, if crawford is hitting what is best for him trumps what is best for jd. but crawford isn't hitting, which makes the leadoff spot the place for jd.

we know his skillset serves the team best leading off. he doesn't look to get hits at a high rate, and would rather focus on getting on base, especially via the walk (even if this means taking his strikeouts).

taking it a step further, athletes need roles. one of the problems with jd is, this is his fifth year on the team, and he's never really had a role outside of that one month where everybody was hurt, he was asked to carry the team, and he did (i think it was june '08 or '09). sometimes a player's role is to be a jack of all trades, which is probably the closest thing you could describe jd's role as the last four years. the only problem is he's not a jack of all trades kind of player. as dv pointed out in the post, he has one thing he does really well, and that's get on base.

he's not an rbi guy, so you can't bat him in the middle of the order. as dv has pointed out many, many times, batting him towards the bottom of the order mitigates his skill of getting on base because of who bats behind him. that leaves the top of the order.

so maybe this is not only jd's chance, but the team's chance to not just maximize his ability, but to give him a role. give him some responsibility. here you go jd, you're going to lead off almost every night, we need you to consistently be in the lineup and consistently get on base.

he's been "floating" on this team for the last four years. his production has been very blah and he's been able to get away with it in part because nobody really knows what he does. he's like that person everyone sees at work all the time, they don't really know what he does to be productive, but he's around in enough different areas that nobody can get on him. dv has alluded to jd doing "just enough" many times before.

if he leads off every day, that's not floating. that's tangible responsibility. maybe that will be the best thing for jd, and maybe that will be the best thing for the red sox.

Anonymous said...

What if JD excels in the leadoff role and the Sox sign him for a 2 year extension at the end of the year?

Patrick said...

"What if JD excels in the leadoff role and the Sox sign him for a 2 year extension at the end of the year?"

this is my dream scenario. except i'd prefer more years and at 10+ mil per. dv might lose his mind. i actually think this is more possible than others, at least 50/50 drew is playing in boston next year.

the gm at work said...

Okay, what if I put a flux capacitor in my DeLorean and went back in time to 1955? We can talk about things that simply are not going to happen all day long. I guess I chose to go to a tradeshow instead. JD at leadoff could propel the 2011 Red Sox to their rightful place on Immortality Peak, wherever and whatever that is, and he's still not coming back. Guy started talking about retiring at the end of this contract fourteen months ago. He talked about it again during the season last year, and was talking about it in camp this year.

The guy is going to retire.

Seriously, think about your job, especially if you don't particularly like your job. If JD is offered $10 million to play baseball next year, that's a 29% pay cut. If you were financially sound and could JD around all day for the rest of your life without working another day, would you keep your job if you had to take a 29% pay cut?

The guy is ambivalent about playing at $14 million a year. There's no way he would take any kind of pay cut.

If JD comes back, I might have to blog for a sixth year.

Also, it would not surprise me if the Red Sox did take their place on Immortality Peak if JD stayed at leadoff. Their winning percentage this year with JD at leadoff is 1.000. Numbers don't lie.

Anonymous said...

I thought you were going to ask me about the fact that we are undefeated with JD batting leadoff.

Anonymous said...

Boys

I don't know if that's Bandi with the anonymous comments or somebody else, but those two comments are gems right there. Whomever it is, hell of a job.

Also, Sox still haven't lost with JD Drew leading off. And get this, he led of the 11th inning with a walk, went to 3rd on a Pedroia single, and scored on a Gonzalez double. Hmmmm. DV might be on to something.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Just think about it. If JD leads off tonight and the Red Sox win again, half of their wins would be in games where JD leads off.

The 11th inning last night is precisely why it's the most logical thing. We have watched the guy play for four freaking years, and we all know he doesn't particularly like to take the bat off his shoulder. In the 11th last night, they did something they couldn't do with Drew hitting before Varilamacchia and 46: Turned that walk into something.

Another point I forgot to mention: Say Youkilis is on third or Ortiz is on second with one out with JD somewhere in the bottom of the order. With JD's aversion to swinging the bat, there will be a situation of those guys staying on their base, adding a guy on first (and the double play possibility), and being one double play away from a squandered rally. With Varilamacchia and 46 coming up. It just doesn't make any sense.

Anonymous said...

DV

JD does get on base. So from that vantage point, it makes perfect sense. But we also hear about what a 'great base runner' he is, going first to third and other such things. So that fits as well. If not for his apathy, he'd be the perfect lead off guy every night. Actually, if not for his apathy, he'd probably be the perfect baseball player.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Disagree with you slightly here. Part of what makes JD an elite (yup, I said it - this is how far I'll go to prove a point) leadoff hitter IS his apathy. If he cared about winning baseball games as much as you care about his team winning baseball games, he would use those other tools (like his speed and especially power) to drive in the runs ahead of him. Going back to the Youkilis on third example, he would drive a ball to the warning track in right field and make sure the run scores.

The real Drew doesn't really care that much, and therefore will draw that walk. His apathy is the source of his plate discipline.