By Chad Jennings
For the first time in more than a year, Stephen Drew will wake up this morning as a better-than-.200 hitter in the Majors. He got there with a four-hit game yesterday, but the truth is, he’s been hitting well over .200 for quite a while now. Here’s Drew’s month-by-month slash line:
Those certainly aren’t overwhelming numbers, but they’re better than most teams have gotten out of their No. 9 hitter this season (no team in baseball has come even close to a .700 OPS out the No. 9 spot this year).
Granted, Drew’s solid three months came after a bad April and an even worse May. And those bad months came after a brutal 2014. There’s a good reason why many Yankees fans have pushed for a change at second base this season, but the calls for change seemed to escalate at the All-Star break and beyond. The Yankees got a glimpse of top second base prospect Rob Refsnyder, but decided to stick with Drew after that break. It was, in many corners, not a popular decision. I was among those who wasn’t sure it was the right choice.
Drew: .248/.315/.416 in New York
Refsndyer: .222/.292/.363 in AAA
No one can say for certain how Refsnyder would have hit had he stayed in New York and gotten a chance to play every day, but the numbers since the break don’t necessarily back the popular opinion that Refsnyder is clearly a better immediate option at second base. Long term is a different issue — clearly there’s youth and potential in Refsnyder’s favor — but Drew has not been the overwhelming drain on the Yankees’ lineup that he’s often made out to be.
Does waking up this morning as a .201 hitter make him feel any better about his season? Probably not much, but it’s been a long road for Drew to get back to that modest benchmark. Through his first eight big league seasons, Drew was a career .264 hitter. He hit .291 in 2008, dropped to .223 in 2012, and bounced back to .253 in 2013. In the offseason before 2014, Drew held out for a contract he liked and wound up not joining the Red Sox until early June. Since then, it’s been a struggle reaching the Mendoza Line.
Here’s Drew’s past 15 months, the path that took him from a late start in 2014 to finally finishing a day as a .200 hitter again:
June 19, 2014
After an 0-for-3 in Oakland, Drew’s season batting average dropped to .200. It would be more than a year before it would be that high again.
June 18 – June 28, 2014
Falling to .200 was actually part of an extended slump in which Drew went 1-for-32 in a span of nine games. His average at the end of play on June 28 was .125. That was the low point.
June 29 – July 22, 2014
A modest surge! In a span of 16 games, Drew hit .235/.350/.529 and raised his season batting average to .178. Nine days later, the Yankees traded for him.
July 31, 2014
Traded to the Yankees with a season slash line of .176/.255/.328 in Boston. The Yankees said they’d seen positive signs in his recent at-bats.
August 26 – September 7, 2014
A 10-game stretch during which Drew went 1-for-23 to drop his season batting average to .159, the lowest it had been since mid-July.
September 28, 2014
In his final game of last season, Drew went 0-for-4 to finish the season with a .162 batting average. He’d hit .176 with the Red Sox and .150 with the Yankees.
January 6, 2015
Drew re-signed with the Yankees on a one-year deal worth $5 million. Having acquired Didi Gregorius a month earlier, it was clear the Yankees planned to use Drew at second base.
March 3 – April 4, 2015
Getting his first full, healthy spring training since 2011, Drew hit .259/.310/.481 in the Grapefruit League. Of the projected big league regulars, only Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez had a higher spring slugging percentage for the Yankees.
April 13, 2015
Pinch hit grand slam in Baltimore. It was the second game in a row in which Drew had homered. His season batting average was .190.
April 27, 2015
Second two-hit game of the year raised Drew’s season average to .193. That would be his high-water mark until early August.
April 28 – May 30, 2015
In a span of 28 games, Drew went 13-for-96 with one home run. He hit .135 during that span, and at the end of it, his season batting average was down to .157.
June 1 – June 21, 2015
Immediately after his worst extended slump of the year — after the Yankees benched him for two games — Drew hit .267/.328/.617 in a stretch of 18 games during which he homered six times and had more walks than strikeouts.
August 2, 2015
A three-hit game in Chicago nearly got Drew over the hump. He finished the day hitting .199 for the year, the highest his batting average had been at the end of a day all season. It hasn’t been below .190 since.
August 19 – August 24, 2015
While much of the Yankees’ lineup went cold, Drew hit .353/.476/.353 through a six-game span that again brought his sason average up to .199.
August 30, 2015
Yesterday in Atlanta, Drew had his first four-hit game of the year. It included his 16th homer and let him with a .201/.274/.385 slash line for the season.