Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Is Dustin Pedroia regressing?

I never witnessed Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, or Dwight Evans in action. I have vague memories of Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra thriving in a Boston Red Sox uniform.

I was too young and too enthralled with re-runs of SpongeBob SquarePants to fret about a team and game I now live and die with. A lot of you were fortunate enough to see these all-time greats in action, and one of the above probably earned the distinguished honor of being deemed “the best Red Sox you have ever seen play.”

For me, a die-hard Red Sox fan since 2009, the player holding that exclusive prestige would, without a doubt, be Dustin Pedroia — the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox.

It is a true spectacle watching Pedroia play on a daily basis. He arrives earlier than anyone. He puts everything into every swing. He jumps after every pitch is thrown. His focus is deadlocked for nine innings and never wavers.

He is the absolute definition of a baseball player. If you want to teach your kids the right way to play the game, just turn on the Red Sox, point to Dustin Pedroia and say, “watch and learn.”

Listed at 5’8″, 165 pounds, the right-handed hitter has fought adversity his entire career. He was proclaimed too small to fulfill his life-long dream, but the doubters’ innuendos were used as fuel to the fire, which is yet another reason to revere him.

The four-time All-Star, two-time World Series winner, two-time Gold Glove winner, 2008 Silver Slugger, 2007 Rookie of the Year, and 2008 Most Valuable Player certainly possesses an extensive collection of accolades in a stupendous career.

It is irrefutable: Dustin Pedroia is well on his way to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. He has been an All-Star-esque player since 2007 and continues to produce at a high level. However, since the 2012 season his production has hit a subtle snag.

Now, he arguably had his paramount season in 2011. Pedroia set career highs in OPS+, BBs, OBP, SBs, HRs, RBIs, and WAR while simultaneously receiving his second Gold Glove.

The bar was set high for 2012 but he was not exempt from the Bobby Valentine struggles. His wRC+ (wins runs created plus) was a career low at 114, signaling his worst offensive season to date.The second basemen’s walk percentage was well under his career average (9.3%) at a paltry 7.7% — his lowest since 2008. Further, his fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) was the worst it has been during any “full season” at 4.4.

2013 was much better from an on-base standpoint, albeit his slugging percentage plummeted from .449 in 2012 to .415 last season. His wRC+ in 2013, just edged out his mediocre 2012 total by one point at 115.

In both seasons, his strikeout percentage was well above his career norm. It is a fairly disconcerting trend, which tends to indicate some form of regression. Pedroia’s zone contact percentage has been down the last two years and it is not erroneous to think a correlation exists.

Keep in mind amidst the array of numbers that he was the recipient of an influx of injuries the past few seasons. Most notably a torn UCL on his thumb he sustained Opening Day 2013 and played with the entire season.

He underwent successful surgery in the offseason and claims to be one-hundred percent healthy. Although, you can never quite tell if Pedroia is ailing.

So a “healthy” Dustin Pedroia is present but he has not ameliorated his offensive performance. In fact, he has been worse.

In 155 plate appearances, Pedroia has compiled a pedestrian .284/.348/.397 slash line, accompanied by a lone home run.

The story holds true — solid on-base percentage but lackluster power. It is viable to credit the lackluster start to small sample size, however, he has not necessarily been unlucky.

His BABIP (batting average in balls in play) has not been unsustainable in either direction. It sits at .317, which is actually superior to his career .314 BABIP. If anything, he is due for a slight drop-off.

Below is a quick breakdown of Dustin Pedroia’s stats since 2011:

2011: .307/.387/.474 (.325 BABIP) (7.6 fWAR)

2012: .290/.347/.449 (.300 BABIP) (4.4 fWAR)

2013: .301/.372/.415 (.326 BABIP) (5.4 fWAR)

2014: .284/.348/.397 (.317 BABIP) (0.9 fWAR)

As you can see he is still a tremendous player in terms of plate discipline and on the defensive side of the ball. You could also make a case his coveted intangibles and leadership add to his value. However, Derek Jeter has shown us, without tangible production, those “leadership qualities” seem to be an afterthought.

Pedroia has been and still is a great player, but the days of Don Orsillo saying “La Luna” double-digit times in the course of a season may be over. His power production is not near where it used to be, and there is no reason to believe we will see a rejuvenation from “Pedey” in the power department.

Tags: Dustin Pedroia

  • Rick M

    At the game the other night he looked awful. Stuck out on the same pitch three times just flaying at the ball. At his age he is in the middle years of his career and I doubt you will ever see 2008 again. You have a gritty hitter who gives tough at bats, but where he shines is defensively. Pedroia is certainly not smooth, but has great instincts and exceptional quickness. With a game on the line I would rather have a ball hit his way than anywhere else.

    • Patrick Green

      Yup. He is still one of the finest defensive player in baseball. He is regressing offensively, particularly in the power department.

  • Justin Jay

    I saw this article, posted it on my Facebook and smiled. I enjoy riling up my Red Sox friends… there are many… so this should do the trick! Hope you get quite uptick!

    • Justin Jay

      To further add to this, I quote Peter Gammons. “Dustin Pedroia doesn’t have slumps. If Pedroia has a ‘slump’ it’s because he’s playing hurt.” Like you said, he was injured essentially the entire season with the same injury that’s sidelined Josh Hamilton for 6-8 weeks and held out Yasiel Puig for almost a week as well.

  • Mike D.

    I’ve been a huge Pedroia fan since 2005 when I saw him play in Pawtucket. I don’t disagree with this article because I’ve always considered his power numbers from earlier in his career to be flukes and didn’t expect him to keep that up. Dustin is more of a hits batter and not a power guy. Plus, its still to early in the season to look at these numbers and make that call. The injuries play into it a little but I don’t think he’s regressing yet. Maybe in 2-3 years though.

  • PatFromFanIQ

    Seems a bit disingenuous to compare fWAR from this season to previous seasons, since they’ve only played a fraction of the season. Stretched out over a full season, that would result in a fWAR of approximately 4.3, which would be a better indicator of his current production, rather than pretending that the 0.9 fWAR is somehow an equivalent measure as compared to the other season stats.

    Not saying it disputes your point, but it would have been a more honest way to compare those stats.

    • Patrick Green

      I listed his fWAR, slash line, and BABIP for every season. Not once did I delve into nor did I suggest it had any stake in the argument. WAR tends to be flawed and it’s very early into the season, so the premise and focus of the article was his offensive regression.

      • PatFromFanIQ

        Right. But slash lines and BABIP can be legitimately compared between two seasons even if he plays 162 games in a season and 35 games in another season. fWAR, on the other hand, is a cumulative stat, and can’t be used at face value when comparing full seasons to partial ones.

        Someone’s WAR over a portion of a season needs to be projected over the full season if you want to compare it to a full season. Comparing WAR over 30 games to WAR over a full season is misleading at best. At worst, it’s downright deceptive. Not accusing you of the latter, just saying it needs to be kept in context.

        • Rick M

          We can always take the difference between fWAR and rWAR, split the difference and get me totally confused. WAR, either r or f, is best applied over the long haul since they have such a cumulative nature. As the season progresses and the baseline magnifies the use becomes more legit. After 30 games? No way. After 100 games? You probably have a case. 125 games? Seals the deal. OK…back to my Secrets of Mental Math book.

          • Patrick Green

            I did not think anyone would think anything of it. I just listed the stats repetitively not trying to mislead anyone.

          • Rick M

            What would be interesting is a year by year comparison of WAR for 30 games or even monthly. I do not believe Fangraphs has that option.
            What is interesting, Patrick, is following this along as it extrapolates. Be interesting to see how this looks in 60 games…90 games….120 games. If the trend continues in that 0.9 range with just some minor movement you have it nailed. In the meantime I will spend my time this evening ignoring the Red Sox and concentrating on the Hodge conjecture.

          • Patrick Green

            Oh, no. I project it to be in the 4-5 range. The days of 7-8 are over. His defense and offense is too good to stay down there. He is subtly regressing (offensively) that is all. He’ll probably have a 100-120 OPS+ and 4-5 fWAR. All-Star level, albeit not what he used to be.

  • larry

    Hey Patrick, I’ve been a Red Sox fan since 1974!! I’ve seen Hall of Famers Yaz,Fisk,Rice go thru slumps and surges. During every season I always pinpoint hat certain KEY hitters like Pedroia and Napoli perform at their highest level.
    Been banking on Bogarts and Bradley to bust out too.