When J.D. Drew sat out against tough lefties last season, Red Sox manager Terry Francona normally pointed out that he had to get at-bats for Rocco Baldelli and thus was doing so more for the benefit of Baldelli than for Drew.
We'll find out this season if he was telling the truth.
Baldelli is gone. Jeremy Hermida is the new fourth outfielder -- and Hermida is just as lefthanded as Drew is.
Francona still will have to find at-bats for Hermida. The former first-round draft pick still has enormous potential, and the Red Sox wouldn't have traded for him if they didn't think he had something to offer.
Those at-bats, though, will have to come mostly against righthanded pitchers. Hermida spelling Drew against lefties makes pretty much no sense if you look at their career splits:
Drew: .262/.366/.438 (.804)
Hermida: .237/.321/.376 (.697)
Drew: .292/.407/.528 (.935)
Hermida: .274/.351/.441 (.792)
Drew, then, is going to have to hit against lefties more often than he has in his first three seasons with the Red Sox.
How will he do? Here's a look at his recent history against lefties:
2004 (167 at-bats): .287/.408/.521 (.929)
2005 (68 at-bats): .235/.416/.279 (.695)
2006 (119 at-bats): .244/.338/.378 (.716)
2007 (116 at-bats): .224/.285/.353 (.638)
2008 (94 at-bats): .284/.426/.500 (.926)
2009 (114 at-bats): .272/.381/.482 (.863)
It's hard to find any sort of consistent pattern. In some ways, the more at-bats he's had against lefties, the better -- except for 2007, a year that was miserable for him all the way around until his grand slam against Cleveland.
He has, for what it's worth, OPS'ed better than .850 against lefties in each of the last two seasons.
The above numbers do have to be taken with a grain of salt. Francona has often picked his spots to use Drew against lefties. He might not have that luxury this season.
For what it's worth, Drew is 2-for-10 (.200) with five strikeouts against CC Sabathia but 13-for-36 (.361) with 13 strikeouts against Andy Pettitte, having drawn one total walk against the Yankees' two best lefthanded pitchers.