.136/.156/.227/.383 is not a stellar batting line. One might even say that a batting line that contains an OBP that is under the Mendoza Line is downright godawful. In 15 games and 44 at-bats, that is what Dusty's been able to put together so far. So I was pondering for myself a couple of days ago whether or not we should be a little bit worried about this.
But then came the game against Kansas City and Hudson. 2-4 with a home run. His first two at-bats were absolutely stellar, too. Lots of pitches, fouling off what he didn't like, taking all the stuff that was outside the zone. Those two at-bats embodied everything that I, and I suspect a lot of the rest of you, expect from Pedroia. Not the home run, of course, but the grinding. Working for a hit. Before that game, he had looked kind of lost at the plate. Swinging at some bad stuff and swinging early in the at-bats. Against KC the other day, he looked like what we want him to look like.
The obvious question then becomes whether the KC game was a result of Dusty settling down and improving or if it was because he had no trouble seeing Luke Hudson's pitches. There's no way to answer that question, especially since Dusty didn't play the following game.
Since no definitive conclusions can be drawn from anything else, I figured that an interesting way to see if we should maybe be a little concerned is to check out the numbers posted by a bunch of other 2B in their first season. I limited my selection to players who are solid (not all of them very solid) on defense and have a nice OBP but not a lot of power, since I consider that to be what we hope Dusty becomes. If someone's hoping for him to become the next Hank Aaron, let me know and I'll revise my selection ;)
Mark Loretta, 50 AB in the 1995 season: .260/.327/.380/.707
Luis Castillo, 164 AB in the 1996 season: .262/.320/.305/.625
Jamey Carroll, 71 AB in the 2002 season: .310/.347/.507/.854
Marcus Giles, 244 AB in the 2001 season: .262/.338/.430/.768
Mark Grudzielanek, 269 AB in the 1995 season: .245/.300/.316/.616
Those are some very solid numbers from the start. All of them, except for Carroll, had poor batting averages. However, they made up for it by drawing a lot of walks. That's one of the major points of concern regarding Pedroia, in my opinion. He's drawn one walk so far. One in 44 at-bats. This year in Pawtucket, he drew 48 walks in 423 at-bats. That's (very) roughly one walk every ten at-bats. That's a big difference from one walk in 44 at-bats. What's the reason for this? Is Pedroia nervous? Quite possibly. I would definitely not blame im if he was. When he sees a borderline strike coming, he might be a lot more likely to swing at it on the big league level rather than in AAA. It could simply be a question of getting comfortable and settling down. Another obvious cause could be that pitchers simply challenge him with strikes all the time. If that was the case, though, his batting average should be a lot higher considering he's a solid hitter. Also, if you look at the other second basemen's stats above, all of them drew walks at a rate at least twice as high as Dusty. The cause could be either one of these, or a different one altogether. Since I'm not inside Dusty's head, I can't answer with any authority.
I am a little concerned. Not greatly, but somewhat. There's 20+ games left, though, so Dusty has time to improve and show that the KC game wasn't just a fluke. If his numbers at the end of the season are about what they are right now, assuming that he gets at least 30-40 more AB's, I'll upgrade my level of concern a notch or two.
I would love to hear the thoughts of the rest of you guys on this topic. Am I being Henny Penny or are you a bit worried too?