Dustin Pedroia has had a great career with the Red Sox. He’s a guy most Red Sox fans like because he plays hard, he has produced, and he’s a likable guy. Simply put, he’s a winning player. Over the last two years, his numbers have declined and he has been getting grilled for not producing as he once did. I was on this train last year and I even made a lot of comments about his contract. I wondered why the Red Sox signed him to a 8 year, $110 million contract in which he’ll be 38 years old at the end of. Last year was the worst year of his career offensively. He hit .278 with 7 Home Runs and 53 RBI’s in 135 games. These weren’t exactly All Star numbers. On a positive note, he continued to excel defensively and he won his fourth gold glove of his career. His injuries to his wrist certainly were a factor offensively last year. He had no power and he couldn’t pull the ball. He just wasn’t the same player last year.
This year has been better offensively with a .772 OPS compared to .712 last year. However, he has struggled with runners in scoring position batting just .190. We’re hearing more and more about Pedroia not producing for the second straight year. It got me thinking about what are the expectations for this player? It’s certainly better than the .190 with RISP. However, this is not a player that should be expected to carry a team with his bat. He isn’t that guy.
Pedroia now is a victim of the success he had early in his career. He peaked in his early 20’s and the expectation was that he would keep improving from there. He was the Rookie of the Year in 2007 and he was a key piece to that championship team. In his second year, he was the MVP of the American League! Remember that?! From there, he was an All Star in three of his next five seasons, but he was not MVP caliber. His batting averages ranged from .288 to .307 in those five seasons. Perhaps his best year of the five was 2013. He batted .301 with 9 HRs and 84 RBI’s. The home runs didn’t stand out, but the batting average and RBI’s were excellent for a #2 hitter. Again, he played a major role on a championship team. Solid, steady, consistent… Does this remind you of anyone?
Here’s a comparison of Derek Jeter’s first nine seasons to Pedroia’s. This includes a late season call up prior to the rookie season of both players.
Let’s start with this. Jeter wins offensively. However, it’s pretty close especially when you consider that Jeter played in 61 more games. The players are comparable because their expectations were similar. They were primarily #2 hitters who were expected to get on base for the big bats hitting behind them. While doing that, they both excelled, and they produced somewhat similar numbers. Pedroia was the better defensive player. He had four Gold Gloves in his first nine seasons. Jeter had zero at this point in his career. This point isn’t really debatable. All you need to know is Dustin Pedroia has the best fielding percentage for second baseman in the history of Major League Baseball at .992. Repeat. That said in the history of MLB. For the record, Derek Jeter also never won an MVP. Pedroia did.
Numbers aside, the two players also were keys to multiple championships in their first nine years. Jeter had four and Pedroia had two. They were both well liked and respected by their peers. They played the game the right way and always gave their best effort. The similarities are clearly there. However, neither player was ever the guy that opposing teams feared at the plate. Jeter wasn’t that guy either even though many in the media wanted us to believe that. One difference is Jeter didn’t have a year like Pedroia did in 2014 until he was 36 years old. He kept it going for a long time.
The question is can Pedroia go back to being the player he was AFTER 2008 and BEFORE 2014? The .288 – .307 guy. That should be the expectation. If he can, we may be watching a future Hall of Famer on his way to 3,000 hits and we may not realize it. If he can’t, then he’ll be a guy who peaked early in his career, had a lot of success, and then couldn’t maintain it into his 30’s. No, he isn’t NOMAR. Perhaps he’ll be something in between.
I don’t have the answer on the hitting. But, Pedroia gets a mulligan for last year. I’m also not putting a lot of emphasis on his start this year since April and May are historically his worst two months from both a batting average and OPS perspective. The 2013 Pedroia would be ideal. I know this. He’ll give 100 percent every game and he’ll be the best defensive second baseman in baseball. Those things have been taken for granted.
As I look across the field at Fenway, that contract doesn’t look so bad anymore…