Dustin Pedroia has been a patient hitter throughout his MLB career, but especially in recent seasons. As patience has transformed from a virtue to a necessity around the league, Pedroia’s walk rate has risen and his plate discipline has generally improved. However, there is a fine line between having a patient approach and a passive approach, and in the past two seasons, Pedroia has been brushing up against that line.
While Pedroia has seen his walk rates above his career average in the last two seasons (10.1% and 9.8% versus his career 9.3% mark), his power numbers have fallen off a cliff. In 2013, Pedroia’s .114 isolated power was the lowest since his rookie season, but most attributed that decline in power to the thumb injury that he had suffered on Opening Day and valiantly played through. However, Pedroia’s power has not improved in the new year and his .119 isolated power is only slightly higher than his 2013 mark.
At the same time, Pedroia is sitting at 14th in the league with 4.15 pitches seen per plate appearance, a slight increase over the 4.05 mark that he set in 2013 and the 3.97 that he posted in 2012. Could the increase in pitches seen and the decrease in power be related?
It appears that Pedroia is now laying off pitches that he once deposited in the monster seats in an attempt to extend at bats and draw walks. Pedroia obviously knows his game better than anybody, and perhaps he realizes he simply no longer has the power he had a few years ago and is becoming more patient to counteract that. However, when he has been ahead in the count and let it fly, he has been hitting the ball as well as ever.
When Pedroia has played aggressive and swung at the first pitch of the at bat, he has slashed .333/.333/.583– however, he has only done it 12 times this year. Similarly, Pedroia has only taken 17 hacks this year at 1-0, 2-0, and 3-0 pitches despite a .908 OPS when he swings when ahead in those counts.
That all points to Pedroia’s plate approach becoming passive. He has had no issues when he has taken hacks ahead in the count, but he has still done it very infrequently this season. Hopefully Pedroia and hitting coach Greg Colbrunn have come to this realization and are taking steps to correct it– a passive approach is certainly fixable, after all. After all, a fully healthy and powerful Pedroia would be a huge addition to a lineup that has undergone major struggles in the beginning of the 2014 season.