Seasons in Boston: 2006-Present
Honors: 2008 American League MVP, 2007 American League Rookie of the Year, 2x World Series Champion, 4x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, 2013 Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year
Red Sox Numbers: .299/.365/.439, 140 HR, 922 R, 725 RBI, 138 SB, 115 wRC+, 46.6 fWAR
Signature Season (2008): .326/.376/.493, 17 HR, 118 R, 83 RBI, 20 SB, 127 wRC+, 6.4 fWAR
You always knew when you were watching Dustin Pedroia even if you couldn’t see his face. From across the bar or another room, you could see the broadcast and you didn’t need to be close enough to see a name or a number. Heck, you could spot him in the field in an All-Star game when he wasn’t even wearing his Red Sox jersey. The reason why was his pre-play hop. Remember that? His hop happened before every play, just as the batter was starting his load and the pitcher was about to deliver the ball, Pedroia would crouch down and hop up to get himself in the best position to go in any direction that the ensuing play might take him. This anticipation and need to be always in motion told us so much about the absurdly hard-working Pedroia. He was the best to ever play the position in team history because he demanded perfection from himself and was furious when he didn’t deliver. So, he delivered, and he delivered again and again and again until his body finally gave out.
When going back to study all of these Red Sox greats, it was usually the offensive prowess of the players that drew me to include them on this team. Sure, some like Carl Yastrzemski and Tris Speaker were excellent fielders, but offensively they were just as gifted. Pedroia is no exception, he was very gifted offensively, but the first thing I think about with him is his defense. For years Pedroia made every single play. He holds the highest fielding percentage in major league history at his position at .991, but that barely tells the story.
Pedroia’s range moving towards his glove side was absurd. Before the ball was halfway across the infield on a sharply hit grounder he was almost always in position to make an incredible play. Going towards the second base bag he had range that was almost as good to go along with a slick backhand and the ability to make a throw from anywhere. His ability to make a double play happen with a runner bearing down on him or to get the ball to his shortstop under duress had no match in the league. He could jump up and get the ball if he needed to, he could charge the ball, and he could go back into the outfield. Quite simply put, Pedroia could make every play you wanted a second baseman to make and even the ones that seemed impossible.
Offensively Pedroia was no slouch. In fact if his career ended today here’s where he’d rank in team history: Sixth in doubles and stolen bases, eighth in hits, tenth in batting average (modern era, min 4000 PA) and runs scored, 15th in RBI, and 18th in home runs. Despite playing only 1512 games in his career compared to 1865 for fellow great Bobby Doerr, Pedroia has more doubles and has two 200+ hit seasons to Doerr’s zero. In his MVP season in 2008 Pedroia hit 54 doubles and had 213 hits, marks that are good enough for third best and fifth best, respectively, in Red Sox history. His doubles rank just behind Earl Webb and Nomar Garciaparra. For hits his single season best ranks only behind Wade Boggs, Tris Speaker, and Mookie Betts.
Although 2008 represented the season where Pedroia took home the ultimate in hardware, the MVP, and had just set what would be career bests in batting average, slugging percentage, runs, doubles, and hits it was his 2011 season that truly displayed his peak as a baseball player. What he accomplished in 2008 was Pedroia with his most swagger and likely at his physical peak. What Pedroia accomplished in 2011 was a combination of elite physical skills and full mastery of the mental side of the game.
FanGraphs has Pedroia’s 2008 season as a 6.4 WAR season and his 2011 at a whopping 7.9. The biggest difference between these two years is his defense. Dating back to 2003, when FanGraphs started using UZR in its all-encompassing defense statistic Def, Pedroia’s 2011 is the second best season at second base to Chase Utley in 2008. They are the only second basemen to eclipse 20 with marks of 20.5 and 20.7, respectively. Since he entered the league no second baseman has been worth more defensively than Pedroia with a Def mark of 109.5. He also ranks first in UZR and UZR/150 and third in DRS.
Unfortunately for all of us web gem fans Manny Machado spiked Pedroia’s left knee on April 21, 2017 which started the demise of his career. He still finished as a plus defender that season but several surgeries later he still isn’t able to get on the field. If he never plays another game he has done enough to warrant the starter spot on this roster. Baseball Reference has him worth 51.6 WAR vs 51.1 for Doerr. He also has a higher WAR7 than Doerr at 41 vs 36.6 and his JAWS score is higher than at least seven hall of famers including the aforementioned Red Sox great.
Pedroia was a truly remarkable hitter as shown by his 25 hit streaks of at least ten games during his career. His longest such streak was 25 games and in which he hit .404 with nine homers and 20 RBI, and not surprisingly this happened in 2011. He also once went 5-5 with 3 HR vs Colorado in 2010 and had five five-hit games during his career. Doerr had zero five-hit games during his career and never equaled Pedroia in hit streaks of ten or more games nor in length of his longest streak. Utley has the longest hit streak since Pedroia entered the league at 35 games. However, he has only eleven 10+ game hit streaks in his career.
If playoff moments act as the tie breaker during difficult decisions like this then look no further than the 2007 ALCS. After falling down 3-1 in the series to the Indians, the Red Sox roared back to force a Game Seven at Fenway. In the bottom of the seventh with one out Pedroia came to the plate against Rafael Betancourt with the score 3-2 Red Sox. Betancourt was absolutely dominating that year with a 1.47 ERA 79 ⅓ innings, easily his best year in a very good career. Pedroia drove a high fastball into the Monster Seats to extend the lead to 5-2 in what would end up being an 11-2 game. He broke that game open leading the team to the 2007 World Series.
Simply put, he’s the best to ever man the keystone position in Red Sox history.