Friday, October 23, 2009

Theo Is Out Of His Mind

It's not bad enough the Yankees are a game away from the World Series (thanks, however, to the Angels for maning up last night. Finally.). But Aviv has to point me to this summary of an interview Theo did the other day on WEEI, the big sports station in Boston. In it he expounded on a number of topics...including one J.D. Drew. And what he had to say was...interesting.

“If you want to look at this from a straight objective standpoint, what he contributes offensively and then what he contributes defensively, and then add in baserunning, so it’s the total value of a player, on a rate basis, he was outstanding. And there aren’t too many outfielders who can compare to what he did from a qualitative standpoint… What he’s done in the first three years of that contract, the way we value . . . based on the free agent market, what he’s done qualitatively, and when you factor in even the amount he’s played over these three years, yeah, he’s actually come out to a tick more than $14 million per year.”

Really? Really? He's actually worth more than we're playing him? Unless we're talking pesos or zlotys here, I think Theo just took the Crazy Train to Loonyville. Who can possibly look at what J.D. Drew has done in Boston and coherently argue that he is worth more than his salary?

In his three years in Boston, Drew has never played more than 140 games in a season. He has never had more than 126 hits, has never hit 25 or more homers, has never reached 70 RBI or hit better than .280 in his three years in Boston. His average OPS for the three years is a respectable .896, although I personally would expect better from someone getting paid $14 million per year.

If you look at the 2009 stats, Drew ranks seventh among AL rightfielders in batting average, eighth in hits, fifth in homers and eighth in RBI. He does rank first in OPS, so credit must be given there. He also ranked first in fielding percentage for right-fielders in the AL in 2009. But this isn't about where he ranks alone; it is whether he is actually worth his contract. It's also worth pointing out that in 2008 and in 2007 he barely made the top 10 in any of these categories and was getting paid $14 million then as well.

But in 2009, here are some other right-fielders who equalled or exceeded Drew's production:

Shin-Soo Choo (Cleveland) 156 G .300 BA 20 HR 86 RBI 175 H .883 OPS 2009 Salary: $420,300

Nick Markakis (Baltimore) 161 G .293 BA 18 HR 101 RBI 188 H .801 OPS 2009 Salary: $3,350,000

Nick Swisher (New York) 150 G .249 BA 29 HR 82 RBI 124 H .869 OPS 2009 Salary: $5,400,000

Bobby Abreu (Anaheim) 152 G .293 BA 15 HR 103 RBI 165 H .825 OPS 2009 Salary: $5,000,000

Michael Cuddyer (Minnesota) 153 G .276 BA 32 HR 94 RBI 162 H .862 OPS 2009 Salary: $7,666,666

All these gentlemen also placed in the top 10 in fielding for right field. Were we to go back to 2008 and 2007, the list could be even larger. Now, is it entirely fair to add someone like Choo, who is under the Indians' control for years to come? Theo's argument is that Drew was "outstanding" on the total value of a player, so I think it is.

And what I see here is that there are more than a couple of right-fielders who are as good, if not better, than JD Drew and are getting paid substantially less. The two that really stick out, though, are Nick Swisher and Bobby Abreu. Of the five players listed above, both Swisher and Abreu were available before the 2009 season. The Sox could have traded for Swisher had they desired. And Abreu was on the free agent market for what felt like a millenium. And both players make slightly more than a third of what Drew costs the Red Sox.

Look, I don't blame Theo for trying to justify signing Drew to that insane five-year deal where the Sox bid against themselves. But this is Drew's three-year average with the Sox: 129 G .276 BA 18 HR 65 RBI 118 H .875 OPS Yearly Salary: $14,000,000.

Is that production worthy of that salary? Drew is one of the 30 highest-paid players in the majors. Does he produce like one of the top 30 players in the game? I don't think that you can ever pretend to make that argument.

Drew isn't a bad player, let's make that clear. But he is paid much more than his production warrants. And for Theo to actually argue he's a bargain? That's just flat-out insulting.


Anonymous said...

I lived in Looneyville, WV for a few years and I'm pretty sure I saw Theo riding a 4-wheeler there from time to time.

Crazy kids.

Bill said...

I just couldn't possibly disagree more with this. Drew is one of the best defensive outfielders in the majors (I assume you're looking at fielding percentage, since there's no way in hell Cuddyer and Abreu are "in the top 10 in fielding" -- they're among the worst, look at UZR or something else that counts more than just errors) and, injuries and all, has been a phenomenal player for them for the last two seasons. When you consider that Jason Bay is an absolute butcher in left field, Drew is the best all-around outfielder the Red Sox have, and the third-best player on the team after Youk and Pedey (4.6 WAR compared to their 5.5 and 5.2, and Bay's 3.4). By WAR, he was the fifth-best RF in the majors.

There are ridiculous contracts everywhere, and Drew's isn't even close to being one of them. Fangraphs has him as having been "worth" $18m in 2008 and $21m in 2009. Any team would be lucky to have that kind of production for $14m. Of the guys you're comparing him to, Choo, Markakis and Swisher haven't reached free agency yet (and Drew is better than all those guys), Abreu was a ridiculous bargain (but Drew was much better), and Cuddyer had a career year (but Drew was much better than him too).

Rule #1 about covering Theo should be never to question Theo (until, you know, he does something questionable). If anyone working in baseball right now knows what he's doing, it's Theo.

Dave said...
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Dave said...

Drew is paid 14 million a year and doesn't come close to earning it. His bat is not "Top 30 Paid Players" good.

In Zone Rating he ranked fourth in 2009, behind Cuddyer (1st) and Markakis (3rd) and just ahead of Swisher (5th). In Range Factor he was 7th, behind Choo (2nd), Abreu (4th), Swisher (6th) and just ahead of Markakis (8th). He started fewer games than Markakis, Abreu and Swisher. I also notice that he has fewer defensive games and expected outs than just about everyone I named.

I am not saying that JD Drew is a bad player. But to sit here and say that Drew was remarkably better than all of these guys in 2009 is just flat-out wrong. Just as it is wrong to argue he is worth 14M when he isn't. His average bat alone makes that case.

Bill said...

His average bat? He had a 131 OPS+, almost exactly the same as Jason Bay (132), and a whole bunch better than Abreu (115) and Markakis (106). He was 9th in the league in OBP and 10th in OPS. Offensively, even considering his missed playing time, he was essentially equal to Ethier, Ichiro, Upton, Swisher and Cuddyer.

Range factor and zone rating are, like, so 1999. Tells you a lot more about luck and differences in pitching staffs than about defensive ability. UZR (which isn't perfect, but a lot better than those measures) gives Drew +10 runs for his glove, Swisher 0, Abreu -10, Markakis -8, and Cuddyer -17 (and as a Twins fan, I can tell you that one's pretty dead on). Drew is absolutely, indisputably better than all those guys.

But that's not the point; of all those guys, only Abreu was acquired through the free agent market, and that in a very down year for a ridiculously great price. So if you're going to argue that Drew is overpaid, comparisons to those guys is unfair. How about a comparison to Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Magglio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon? They're all outfielders (in name, at least) and are making about the same as Drew and giving their teams quite a bit less.

Dave said...

Do they play right field? My argument is that, for right field, JD Drew is not worth $14M per year. I think the stats bear that out. You do not. Fair enough.

Unknown said...

Just one comment about not criticizing Theo. He is not, in fact, perfect. He has made mistakes. Just take a look at Boston's shortstop situation. Letting go of Orlando Cabrera, mistake. Signing Edgar Renteria, mistake. Signing Julio Lugo, BIG mistake.

How did John Smoltz and Brad Penny work out? Didn't Theo want to jettison Manny before 2004?

Theo is human and has made and will continue to make mistkes. He is not immune from criticism and his decisions are not beyond discussion.

Bill said...

Wait. Comparing him to right fielders who have never been free agents and thus couldn't possibly make as much as Drew does is fairer than comparing him to left fielders who make the same amount of money?

What's the difference between what Soriano does and what Drew does (other than that Drew is just much better at it)? If they put him in left field instead of right, would Drew cease being overpaid? Besides, Guerrero was supposed to play right field, but just can't anymore, and is still making as much as Drew is...

Theo has made moves that haven't worked out. Every GM does those. That's different from a mistake. A mistake is foreseeable, like trading Adam Jones for Eric Bedard. And his mistake with Smoltz and Penny was bowing to pressure and letting them go, when all their underlying numbers suggested that they'd be just fine.

Bill said...

Incidentally, his contract is fair even if you pretend there's a difference between left fielders and right fielders. Jose Guillen ($12m) is a right fielder, when the Royals are dumb enough to put him in the field. So is Magglio ($15m). Markakis's contract will pay him $11m on average through 2014.

Unknown said...

Sorry, but signing Renteria and Lugo were foreseeable and therefore hardcore mistakes, not just moves that didn't pan out.

Trusting the success of a pitching staff to two aging and/or injury-prone National League pitchers without a viable backup plan is foreseeable as a mistake, not just a bad move.

Theo has made mistakes. They weren't just moves that didn't work out. If that were the case, we could virtually wipe clean Brian Cashman's resume and I don't see anyone running to do that.

Bill said...

I'll give you Lugo (I didn't realize he signed for that much money), but how was Renteria foreseeable? Renteria was one year removed from two consecutive very good years with the bat, and had been pretty good with the glove, too, until completely falling apart in Boston, and he signed for essentially the same amount the Cards had been paying him.

And no backup plan? They entered the season with eight viable major league starters, and knowing that anything they got from Smoltz was a bonus, and they allowed the third fewest runs/game in the AL.

The mistake was letting them go; Smoltz and Penny were both striking guys out and not walking many, just getting unlucky with hits and with a higher-than-expected percentage of fly balls turning into homers.

Anyway, my point was not really to say that Theo never makes mistakes or is above criticism, but just to point out that he is, far and away, the best GM going right now. Y'all are very, very lucky.

Dave said...

I won't argue about Theo being a very good GM. He is one of the best in the game right now. His ability to identify young talent is off-the-charts. And he has made some very good moves. I actually liked the Penny pickup, but thought he should have traded him instead of holding on too long. And the Victor Martinez trade was very well done.

I just strongly feel that the Drew signing, for the money involved, was a mistake.

Bill said...

Fair enough. Thanks for the discussion.

Do most Red Sox fans feel the same way about Drew? I think Ima' have to write a post of my own about that sometime next week. :)

Dave said...

In my experience, most Boston fans loathe Drew. It's mostly (imo) b/c of his talent ceiling vs. performance and his proclivity to get hurt and not play when lightly injured.

BTLove said...

Most Boston fans loathe JD Drew because they are ignorant enough to rely on RBI and AVG as their evaluative tools. Then they have the GM of a very successfull MLB team telling them that those are not the tools that lead to winning games, and they completely ignore him. JD Drew has one big fault and that is his inability to play more than 140 games, but other than that he is great.

They also hate him because of his terrible start in Boston. In 2007 Drew was actually very, very bad. (But its because he was worrying about his very ill child).

Bill, well explained above.

Bill said...

Just in case anyone sees this and is interested, I did end up writing a (long) post on Drew based on this post/conversation/some other, much less sensible things Red Sox fans have been saying. Click my name or below: