Let’s start with the obvious disclaimer, because we all recognize the ongoing problem that is the wussification of America: we all love Dustin Pedroia and what he stands for. He plays hard. He can (and will) do most anything necessary to win. He was an integral part of the World Series championships in 2007 and 2013, and he has value way beyond the statistics.
But what Pedroia is giving the Red Sox now isn’t nearly good enough and everybody knows it.
Including, presumably, Pedroia himself.
So what are we going to do, folks? Are we just going to sit here and pretend that nothing is wrong at second base?
Are we going to continue sniping at easy targets like A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley? Are we going to ignore the pattern that is Pedroia’s decline in productivity?
Or are we going to actually acknowledge the depth of the problem and wonder about the short- and long-term ramifications of it?
To his credit, Kirk Minihane of WEEI was focused in on this a long time ago. Over the last five seasons, Pedroia’s slugging percentage has gone from .493 to .474 to .449 to .415 to, this year, .377. In 2011, Pedroia ranked second among all qualifying major league second basemen in OPS, behind only Robinson Cano. In both 2012 and 2103, he ranked fourth. This year, out of 19 qualifying players, he ranks 11th.
Fact: if Pedroia weren’t in the first year of an eight-year, $110-million contract, we’d all be wondering when Mookie Betts might be playing second base, not left or center fields.
While we’re on the topic, let’s get something else out in the open: this really isn’t about the money. The Red Sox have relatively little money tied up in the long term and, beginning this season, every team in baseball received an extra $25 million per year in national TV money. The luxury tax threshold, presumably, will continue to go up. The Red Sox can carry Pedroia’s annual hit of just under $14 million and really be none the worse off for it financially.
But in terms of the actual baseball – novel concept, eh? – Pedroia is now dragging on the team. This year, like last, the Red Sox have had Pedroia slated to bat third. He has not come close to cutting the mustard. For as much attention as some Red Sox fans have placed on the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury, the subsequent search for a leadoff hitter, the lack of outfield production and the problems at catcher, second base was supposed to be an area of considerable strength. It no longer is. Pedroia’s difficulties might be less of an issue if the Red Sox had another hitter to complement David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the middle of the lineup – Pedroia could then hit second – but they don’t.
They were banking on Pedroia to fill that role.
In the end, some internet outlets have spent time asking the real question: why has Pedroia faded? Is he merely having a bad year? Are pitchers working him differently? Is he injured? Whatever the answers, none of them are particularly good for the Red Sox, who rely on Pedroia for a significant part of their offense. Again, the pattern of Pedroia’s dip is what matters. If injuries aren’t the issue, then Pedroia is becoming less effective as a player. And if they are, after three or four years, when do we wonder if he will ever be the same?
Like it or not, the Red Sox appear to have a developing issue at second base, folks.
How they deal with it in the longer term will be very interesting to watch.