Sunday, March 03, 2013

Don't forget about Dustin Pedroia

Since 2008, Dustin Pedroia has taken turns with the Yankees' Cano to finish in the top spot as baseball's top second baseman. But a June injury in 2012 and some oddball stats combined with a dismal season for the Red Sox to push Pedroia out of people's minds when considering the great second basemen of this era. That would be a mistake. The expectation here is that he will again take his rightful place and push Cano for the top spot again in 2013.

Pedroia ended in 2012 with his lowest on-base percentage and OPS of his career. But if you look at his season a year ago with a microscope, his numbers suffered because he probably played through an injury suffered in June that finally forced him to take some time off in July. June was a wasteland for Pedroia as he had a .538 OPS for the month. And when he only played 15 games in July, he posted all of a .295 on-base percentage.

The second baseman tried to play through his injury because that is the way he is. It was a mistake and it colored his season.

Just consider how his 2012 ended. During August and September, Pedroia had a triple slash line of, .330/.392/.518. But because of his June and July, the six different projection systems audited for this piece have projected he finishes below his career averages for all three items of that triple slash line and below his career wOBA. While it is understood that these projection systems spit out the data that is put in them and crunch out the numbers, the anomalies of his June and July are not accounted.

And the computers are not the only things that have downplayed Pedroia. There just isn't the buzz about him that there used to be. Part of that perhaps is that he got lost in the hoopla of the Red Sox the way they ended in 2011 and with what happened in 2012. But part of it is also that he missed a significant portion of 2010 and then had a season in 2012 that fell short of his previous standards.

And his 2012 had a few other weird things that happened statistically. His rate of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone in 2012 (O-swing) was below his career average. His overall swing percentage was also below his career average. His strikeout rate was also the lowest in three years. Despite this, his walk percentage fell from 10.4% in 2009, 10.5% in 2010 and 11.8% in 2011 to just 7.7% in 2012. That seems odd, doesn't it?

Taking a look at what he did with any counts where he reached three balls shows the difference. In 2011, Pedroia had 172 plate appearances where the count reached three balls. He walked 86 of those times or 50%. The relates to his career average of walking 45.5% of the time his count reached three balls. But in 2012, his count reached three balls 135 times and he walked only 48 of those times for a 35.5% rate.

Either this shows some sort of change in his approach (trying to do too much to help a bad club?) or it's just a one season fluke. The latter seems more the case. The bottom line of all this discussion is that his walk rate should bounce back to the 10% area where he has been the prior three seasons. All projections seem to agree with that belief at least.

Like all players in baseball, Pedroia will be as good in 2013 as his health allows. If he stays healthy, he is going to rejoin the debate on which second baseman is the best in baseball. The prediction here is that he will beat his projections and have a typical terrific Pedroia season.

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