Is the Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia a Baseball Hall of Fame player? Let’s do a what-if to see if an injury-free Pedroia had a shot.
What is the cost of an injury? The most notable injury for the Red Sox is that of Dustin Pedroia and the consequences have reverberated the last two seasons. For Boston, it was repairing the cavern that existed at second base that even included snatching veteran Ian Kinsler to plug the defensive and offensive gap.
The next issue for the Red Sox is that they must pay Pedroia $25 Million for the next two seasons whether he plays or not. In the sudden parsimonious Red Sox that represents a substantial hit on their payroll. Decisions not made over financial concerns since the specter of the payout to Pedroia looms large.
In a recent article, I made mention that Pedroia’s injury has probably put his possibilities for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a herculean task. But that brings up the issue of Pedroia having the ever-important “numbers” that are paramount to entry. How would Pedroia compare with other HOF second sackers?
Pedroia had eleven full seasons in his statistical log before 2018-19 became a nightmare of just nine games and three hits, but how do those seasons impact his chances? Were Pedroia’s skills in such deterioration that it would be impossible? I now drift into “what if” land – an exercise in what could have been? A flight of fancy as I wait for Spring Training.
Since I enjoy the use of tired and worn clichés this is not my first rodeo into the following. Several years ago I wrote about Ted Williams – a rather well-known baseball figure – and what his statistical accomplishments could have been without the intervention of war on his career.
The two most noteworthy recent entries into the HOF at second base are Craig Biggio and Roberto Alomar. Just what are their traditional numbers from their first full eleven seasons? And Pedroia’s? Biggo’s first full 11 seasons that also ends at age 33 was a remarkable collection of offense. Biggio hit .294, 1842 hits, 383 doubles, 149 home runs, and 701 RBI while playing a top of the line second base.
How did Pedroia do his first 11 full seasons? Pedroia hit .301, 1785 hits, 390 doubles, 138 home runs, 717 RBI, while playing a top of the line second base. Pedroia’s 11 seasons also end at baseball age 33. A worthy accomplishment to be in the same conversation as Biggio.
Alomar over his first 11 seasons hit .302, 1825 hits, 332 doubles, 127 home runs, and 709 RBI while being a superb defender. Again, Pedroia is similar, but Alomar’s 11 seasons ended at baseball age 30. And for WAR fans Alomar had a 48.1 bWAR, Biggio a 56.0 bWAR, and Pedroia 52.2 bWAR. Based on that Pedroia was certainly on the same path or was he?
In Pedroia’s last five full or semi-full seasons was there a precipitous decline in his numbers? The all-important numbers. In 2017 Pedroia appeared to be back before an injury sidelined him in late July. Pedroia at that time was hitting .307 and came back for a one-game attempt in August before going on the IL.
In September Pedroia returned and finished at .293 with a league-best (if qualified) 9.8 UZR/150. That September may have marked the end fling of his career. Pedroia’s last five seasons were not up to snuff of the first six, but the decline was not staggering. It does provide a possible leap of analytical faith.
Let’s assume that the knee injury in 2017 was rehabbed successfully and for 2018-19 the numbers averaged not his career, but the five previous years that included over 100 games missed. That would be an extra 311 hits, 60 doubles, and .297 average for 2018-19. Let’s say Pedroia carried those numbers over to the final two years of his contract.
Now he has an extra 622 hits, 120 doubles, and his .297 average. Plug that into his career numbers and it is 2,427 hits, 454 doubles, and a career average close to .300. Is that HOF numbers? Maybe not quite the bounce of Alomar and Biggio after their eleventh season, but still quite productive.
Now let’s look at WAR – specifically bWAR. In the last five seasons under discussion, Pedroia has a 4.0 bWAR average that has been depreciated by his injuries. So let’s say Pedroia goes the life of his contract and that is four more years including the last two null seasons now included and an additional 16.0 bWAR. His career bWAR would sit at 68.2 bWAR even with “declining” years. For his career, Biggio has a 65.5 bWAR and Alomar a 67.1 bWAR. Is that HOF numbers for Pedroia? Most certainly.
There are certainly flaws since Pedroia even without his knee injury could have statistically collapsed. Conversely, Pedroia could have returned to his 2017 track and averaged 134 games a season – his career average – and stacked his numbers even more. What if Pedroia returns for the last two seasons of his contract? Back to those two seasons of additional numbers and a career 59.7 bWAR. If WAR is now an end-all then Pedroia lines up rather well with other HOF second basemen.
An interesting sidebar is if Pedroia ends it all this spring. Sayonara! Farewell! See ya! Does he belong? A quick look at another Red Sox second baseman and that is Bobby Doerr. Doerr’s career also crashed over an injury to his back, but Doerr finished his 14 seasons with a 51.2 bWAR. The traditional numbers are superior to Pedroia’s, especially in power. Or is it?
Doerr slammed 223 home runs and had 1247 RBI while hitting .288. Pedroia hits well at Fenway Park, but the right-hand hitting Doerr was dynamite in the home court with 145 home runs, 739 RBI, and a .315 average. Should that be a factor? Back to reality.
I would certainly not vote – if baseball was insane enough to give me one – for Pedroia as his career now stands. That would change if Pedey manages recovery and post two more seasons that may not be great, but good. At that point, he may have a case – at least with me. I am not one to punish a player over injuries – just think Don Mattingly.
Is the HOF a potential incentive for Pedroia? He’s well versed in baseball history and is competitive. Few players would endure his level of rehab knowing the money is there if you play and the money is there if you don’t play. And that segues into Dustin in a historical context with the Red Sox and his legacy.
I have read far too much that degrades Pedroia – selfish, egocentric, and vastly overpaid. I can understand the emotion involved, but I will never dismiss him as a player for those 11 seasons. His contributions to a pair of World Series championships have earned him a pass against any negatives. This is one of my favorite all-time players and a dirt dog personified.