Welcome to the Red Sox Review series. It’s a fairly standard feature in which we will review the year that was for every player who made a decently large impact on the Red Sox this year. How do I come up with that definition? Completely arbitrarily, of course! The list of players I’m using can be seen here, and if I am missing anyone please let me know in the comments. Anyway, for the players who are included we will look at the positives of their 2017, the negatives, review their One Big Question from the preseason and look ahead to what’s on the table for 2018. Today, we discuss Dustin Pedroia.
Dustin Pedroia has had a lot of great years with the Red Sox, two of which ended in championships. This was not one of those years, and in the grand scheme of his career this will be looked at as a forgettable season. That being said, it wasn’t even close to all bad for Pedroia. First and foremost, as has been the case for so much of his career, he showed off incredible plate discipline. He’s always been someone who can make consistent contact while also drawing walks, and for the fourth time in his career he drew more walks than strikeouts. For all of his other deficiencies at the plate, this skillset will always give Pedroia’s offense a relatively high floor.
In addition to the plate discipline, Pedroia continued another great trend from his entire career. He’s always been phenomenal in the field at second base, and that continued to be the case in 2017. It’s something that we probably take for granted at this point — I know I do at times, even if I try really hard not to — but for reasons we’ll get to later it’s not going to last forever. For now, he does everything well. He covers a ton of ground on the right side of the infield, has a strong arm and turns double plays as well as any second baseman in baseball. It was a good enough year that he was named a Gold Glove finalist.
Finally, if you’re looking for more positives, you’ll have to look to Pedroia’s splits. Beyond the plate discipline, his overall year wasn’t all that impressive, but he had his moments. For one thing, the veteran absolutely destroyed left-handed pitching to the tune of a .344/.453/.475 line and a 144 wRC+. This, as you can imagine, was based largely on absurdly good plate discipline numbers. Additionally, he posted a 121 wRC+ at Fenway Park, a 123 wRC+ with men on base and a 132 wRC+ with runners in scoring position.
While there were some things to be happy about with Pedroia this year, as with his entire career, it also wasn’t a year we’ll remember when we tell our children and grandchildren about his playing days. The biggest issue for Pedroia this year was the biggest issue with the team as a whole as well as his biggest issue whenever he has a lackluster year. He just couldn’t hit for power. He’s never really been a true slugger, of course, but when he’s going well he can put up respectable power numbers. Instead, in 2017, he hit just seven homers in 105 games and posted an Isolated Power of just .099, which is awful in today’s game. Pedroia was able to hit plenty of line drives and ground balls, which turned into a fair number of hits, but he just wasn’t driving it with authority. I think it’s fair to say that some of the lack of power was bad luck, but for the most part it was his own fault and something he needs to solve.
There was also the matter of his baserunning, which frankly was atrocious last year. There was a time earlier in his career where he was a safely positive runner, and it can be hard for a veteran like Pedroia to adjust to a new set of skills. That is not an excuse, but rather the truth. He ran into way too many outs this year and tried to take the extra base that he simply doesn’t have the speed to take anymore. I don’t envy whoever’s job this will be, but someone has to sit Pedroia down and let him know he’s not the guy he thinks he is.
Finally, of course, there is the injury issues. This is sort of to be expected with Pedroia, who is in the second half of his career and plays an all-out style. There are going to be bumps and bruises, but it was fairly major in 2017. Due to wrist and knee issues, the second baseman only played in 105 games, leading the Red Sox’ infield depth to be tested. Obviously, the knee problems are even worse than that may let on, since he’ll be undergoing surgery this winter and is set to miss at least the first month or so of the season, if not more.
The Big Question
Ugh. After last season, it seemed like Pedroia was going to be able to do this forever, and by this I mean being a safely above-average player at a key position. We know that second baseman tend to break down earlier than any position besides catcher, but Pedroia didn’t show any signs of slowing down in 2016. That tune has changed now with his knee injury that Dave Dombrowski says they’ll have to monitor for the rest of his career. It’s sad that an all-time Red Sox player is likely about to hit the back nine of his career, but it’s worth mentioning that we don’t know how he’ll react to the surgery. He may not be the player he once was, but it’s too early to assume Pedroia is complete toast.
Looking ahead to 2018
As we’ve mentioned, Pedroia’s 2018 will start by rehabbing a surgically repaired knee. Everything after that is a major question mark. I still believe it’s foolish to assume he’ll be back by May, since setbacks seem to be the norm in recoveries that take this long. Then, whenever he does get back, it’s impossible to know what he’ll look like. The team has appeared confidence he’ll be perfectly fine, but of course they are going to say that. Honestly, it’s a total mystery.