Nancy Drew and the Curious Case of Sabremetrics

I was at the first game of the Sox-Orioles series last week where we put a hurting on O’s pitching for 6 HRs. Highlight of the game was Ortiz-Reddick-Saltala….whatever combining for back-to-back-to-back shots. The stadium was going insane, a great moment no doubt and everyone was cheering for a fourth.

Guess who but JD aka Nancy Drew was the fourth batter in the inning and if you know anything about JD Drew, you can predict the outcome – Brought the count to 3-2, without swinging of course, and then took ball 4 – Classic JD. Never has a stadium been more deflated after a home team walk.

Look, I’m not trying to say that I expect a player to go up and hit the 4th HR, no matter who they are, but I have some expectations of my players. I expect them to realize the situation – We’re up big, its late in the game, we’ve just hit 3 straight bombs, the stadium is on edge – And I expect that player to respond, not with a passive walk, but by swinging for the fences. Look he’ll probably strikeout or fly out, but at least we know the guy cares and we respect that.

And that’s really been the perennial JD issue: Does he care? No one really knows for sure, but for everyone that has seen him play, Sox fans now for 4 going on 5 years, the question has already been answered.

Years ago, before a little thing called sabremetrics gained saint-status in baseball, JD was considered an average player and he produced and was paid as an average player (.286 and a paultry 18 HRs 57 RBI a year, hence the “average” player rating). But once sabremetrics became, well, every GM’s porn, JD became a statistical superstar.

Before sabremetrics, MLB GMs were in the dark ages of analysis. AVG, HRs and RBIs were paramount, and there wasn’t much more after that. Once sabremetrics arrived on the scene, relatively older stats like OBP and OPS gained importance, and new stats like WAR and UZR became the new HR and RBI.

JD comes in now – In his time before coming to Boston, JD was .286/.393/.512/.904 which is, well, superstar-like. His WAR topped at 8.9, a very high wins above replacement, and per 162 he was over 5 almost every season. JD has had a positive career UZR, (an advanced fielding stat which would take 1000 words to explain) which is an above replacement stat, meaning he has always been better than the average fielder (topping at an amazing 16.3 in ’04). His other stats are not dissimilar, his BSR, a baserunning above replacement, is also positive for his career, BABIP is above average, weighted runs added are… etc. etc.

But if you’re a Sox fan, or you know your baseball, you know what you get out of JD Drew. He’s emotionless and may or may not actually have a pulse. The guy isn’t clutch by any means, and he goes through his at-bats in a meticulous, bordering-on annoying, way (by looking at every pitch). Sure he still has respectable OBP and OPS numbers these days, but he’s not the 5-tool player that scouts promised and sabremetrics backed up.

This is getting a bit long, so let me go ahead and make my point. The Red Sox, and the Braves and Dodgers before him, decided to use these advanced stats and they gave him a huge contract (he’s making $14 million a year today). Sure his advanced stats back this up, but these teams seemed to miss the point. Tangibly, JD is only really good for his aforementioned “average” stats because he can never make it through a 162 game season. More importantly, JD brings nothing to the table as far as intangibles go. He’s not a character guy, he’s not a fan favorite, and its what he doesn’t do (show emotion), rather than what he does, which pisses off every fan.

I personally love the baseball stats revolution – It has rewarded the players who’s HR/RBI stats were limited by his team, and those who cashed in on their teams successes statistically have been exposed. Managers have learned to use these stats and have built championship teams due to their creation. But sabremetrics has another side, the side that dehumanizes baseball, which turns men into statistical probabilities, and takes away from the passion of the sport, and JD is the the incarnate of the dehumanizing side of the sabremetrics era.

Is it fair then to hate on JD Drew for his huge contract and his weak statistical output? Probably not, he’s just the product of the sabremetrics era. But that’s not stopping me.

I’ve seen more emotion from wallpaper you bum.


4 thoughts on “Nancy Drew and the Curious Case of Sabremetrics

  1. jd drew has been part of 2 separate back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs. that being said, i agree with everything else you said

  2. Well said Golf. I personally am not a fan of this whole sabremetrics nonsense…mostly because I don’t understand it, nor have I put any effort into doing so. I prefer to stick with the old school stats. There’s enough change going on in sports already.

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