Is Dustin Pedroia regressing?


Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

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.