Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Real Pedroia

Over the weekend or sometime late last week, I saw that Pedroia was talking about the Red Sox 2010 offense. Basically it seemed like he didn't think the concerns were warranted and definitely said the 2010 offense could be better than 2009. While that is definitely true in that it is possible, conventional wisdom is that it won't happen. You don't lose your best offensive player in Jason Bay, not really replace him, and just get better unless guys play above their norm or at least at the highest level of their norm.

Which brings us to Pedroia. For the record, I have no problem with a guy talking like this. Pedroia is clearly a leader in that clubhouse. There is no real reason for him to be talking any way but in this confident fashion. While I think Pedroia takes the whole I'm short so I need to compensate by being confident bordering on arrogant thing too far (mostly because it's just such an obvious and uncreative tactic), this is not an example of that. He's doing what he's supposed to do, projecting confidence. However, that needs to be backed up by performance.

Which brings us to the real point in all of this. Which Dustin Pedroia is going to show up for the Red Sox in 2010? In a lot of ways I think the answer to that question will go a long way towards deciding what type of offense the Red Sox are going to have - regardless of whether or not they are better than in 2009.

We have seen two Pedroias. 2007/2009 and 2008. It is important to note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the 2007/2009 version. Most offenses would take those numbers from second base every day of the week, and I'm sure the Red would like to as well. Unfortunately that doesn't happen in a vacuum. This particular Red Sox team, as constructed, needs something closer to 2008. Asking him to get all the way to 2008 is probably a little much. A 122 OPS+ is likely (but not definitely) a shade above his tools, especially considering the consistency in the 112 and 110 OPS+'s of 2007 and 2009. But there is enough separation between 2007/2009 and 2008 that if he can get somewhere in between he's helping his team big.

There are three players the Red Sox have to have in 2010: Youkilis, Martinez, and Pedroia. They are going to have a tough time hanging without any one of them playing consistently and at a high level. I single out Pedroia for two reasons. First, both Youkilis and Martinez are somewhat more established in terms of what type of production they are going to provide. They have been pretty consistent (and consistently great) for at least the last two seasons, where as Pedroia has had both good and very good seasons. Second, they are likely to bat right in the middle of the order, probably 3rd and 4th. While the Red Sox scored a lot of runs last year in total, it seemed like they sometimes had trouble getting jump started at the top of the order against good pitching. A lot of that falls on Pedroia's shoulders. Again, I'm not saying he didn't do this last year. But he didn't do it with the same dynamic he did the year before. While this isn't totally fair because he was essentially doing his job in large part, he has show he can give more, and I think the Red Sox need more from him.

Looking at the statistical side of it, two things immediately jump out at you: Pedroia walked 24 more times from '08 to '09 and slugged .046 points less. Digging a little deeper, his home road splits are off the charts. He's basically an All-Star in Fenway and a below average player on the road. What's concerning here is that this was also the case in 2007, although not in 2008. While the overall production was still very good to excellent in all three years, 2008 was the only season that he put together numbers on the road. A lot of very good players put together good overall seasons and thus major production for their team despite imbalanced splits. But again I'm just not sure the Red Sox can deal with that from Pedroia. The Yankees can likely deal with Granderson's pronounced splits vs. lefties because they don't absolutely have to have him. They have Jeter, Rodriguez, and Teixeira for that. While the Red Sox undoubtedly love the Pedroia they are getting at home (and with good reason), they need more on the road, especially with the loss of Bay.

Combining these numbers with a more scouting driven analysis, the issue is I'm just not sure how you make up a .167 difference between home and road OPS. More importantly, I'm not sure how you bring a .736 road OPS up to a more passable level, let along a more productive one. I was sort of laughed at when I mentioned for the second consecutive year that Pedroia would have to adjust to pitchers adjusting to him. But it is true. In 2008, he had to deal with pitchers taking him seriously after 2007. In 2009, he had to deal with pitchers treating him like one of the few players in the lineup they didn't want beating them. By the numbers, an increase in walks accompanied by a sharp decrease in power could (but not definitely) mean that pitchers were absolutely forcing Pedroia to hit their pitch. They'd avoid challenging him, throwing to corners. If he puts it in play it's more likely to be a single and if he doesn't he takes his walk. Part of the problem is the hitters behind Pedroia not forcing pitchers to challenge him more. If not, there just isn't a ton you can do. Watching Pedroia for probably 150-200 at bats per year over the last three years (I watch a lot of baseball, especially the AL East), one thing that is plainly obvious is that he flat punishes mistakes. In 2009 he didn't seem to get as many mistakes because of the care he was being handled with. So the question becomes if that is the case, and it repeats itself in 2010, what to do?

The most obvious thing is to do more with pitches on the plate that aren't as fat. The inherent issue here, as I mentioned before, is that I'm not sure how equipped Pedroia is to do this consistently, especially away from Fenway. Beyond that, I'm not totally sure. But there are ways and I think Pedroia needs to figure it out. He collected 28 less hits and 9 less extra base hits last year in comparison to the year before. He went from great to merely good. More than at any point in his career, I don't think the Red Sox can afford to get just good from Pedroia this coming season. They need great, like it 2008, or at least something closer to it than the just good they got in 2007 and 2009.

10 comments:

the gm said...

He had 28 fewer hits and nine fewer extra-base hits, but he had 24 more walks. Sometimes you guys get way too wrapped up in evaluating players in terms of hits and RBIs. We don't really see things like that.

I can't believe you didn't talk about the virtues of JD Drew, who had the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders, in this article.

In reality, though, Pat, this is a great post. Agree with all of it. He probably has to hit .430 and hit a home run every game for this team to be an offensive force.

Anonymous said...

PF

I know you're still fired up that Dustin Pedroia has an MVP and Derek Jeter doesn't. If this is troubling, remember--Kevin Mitchell has an MVP. And so does Ken Caminiti. And to make matters worse, if New York writer George King knew anything about anything (and wasn't a hypocrite) Pedro Martinez would have an MVP and Ivan Rodriguez would not.

That being said, I think Pedroia's 2008 was an exceptional season for him. He's more of the guy we saw in 2007 and 2009, as you pointed out. And there's nothing wrong with that. This Sox team isn't expected (by fans anyway) to score a ton of runs. They'll have to win another way. Teams have won that way before. I'm not excited about it, but if you're a fan, sometimes you have to talk yourself into it.

DV

In the "Money Player" article on JD Drew, Theo Epstein is quoted as saying that Drew is a rare player because he can do all kinds of great things, as well as "hit in the middle of the order." Hold on here. JD Drew bats 7th or 8th for the Red Sox. They tried him 5th and that was a disaster. More importantly, Epstein argues that guys who get on base at a high rate don't drive in runs as much as guys who are free swingers, so that's why JD Drew doesn't have great RBI totals. In the same sentence, ARod, Teixeira, Manny, and Pujols are all listed as guys with OBP's higher than Drew. Somehow, those guys managed to drive in over a 100 runs about 7000 times in their careers despite not being free swingers. I don't mind a creative argument, even if it does tend to cut against the grain of common sense, but a poor, or even mindless argument is something that I have no patience for.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Ivan Rodriguez slimmed down so he could become more nimble behind the plate.

And the "money player" article made me throw up. I didn't even drink on Saturday night, but I read that article online Sunday morning and I puked all over my laptop. The argument you went over there is why evaluating players using one line of the stat sheet is as reckless, foolish, and asinine as looking at a company's health by looking at one line of their financial statements.

But I don't want to get into that today. That will be tomorrow's post.

Patrick said...

gm -

he clearly doesn't have to be that good (and i know you were being at least partly facetious), but i do think he has to be closer to 2008 than his other two full seasons. the more i think about it, maybe that's not even the best way to put it. maybe it's just that he has to be more dynamic out of the 1-2 spots. for those of us who still believe there are things that happen in athletic contests that cannot be reduced to a quantifiable value, there was a difference between pedroia in 2008 and the other two years just in terms of what he seemed to be doing and the times and which he was (or wasn't) doing it. he was more of a catalyst that year. the other two he was somewhere in the middle of catalyst and role player. the sox need more catalyst from him this year, again, especially because he is there best player at the top of the order.

gunn -

did my post come off as needling pedroia? because if so that is not how i meant it at all. i was trying to give a reasoned and well-balanced analysis of where pedroia is at and how important i think he is to this year's club. pedroia having an mvp and jeter not doesn't bother me in the least, especially given the absurdity of the voting by the writers for all awards (not just mvp's), as you pointed out. it's not worth getting fired up about. plus, even if this was something i was still fired up about, the world series last year calms a lot of those things for me.

i think you are 100% right that there is nothing wrong with pedroia's 2007/2009. i also think you might be right that 2008 was a bit over his head. however i don't think somewhere between his 07/09 and 08 is unattainable for him. if he can get somewhere in that range this year, i think it's huge for the sox. that may seem obvious - players playing better helps the team. but as i mentioned in the post i think it's critical for pedroia in particular because of his role on the team and spot in the batting order.

that drew article from sunday, while it has some good points, is the height of advanced numbers being taken too far. gunn, some excellent points on this front.

Anonymous said...

PF

I didn't think you were needling Pedroia. I just saw that Bandi hadn't posted yet, so I figured somebody needed to stir the pot a little bit.

Also, I know we haven't had much contact outside of this blog lately, but you're now on the other side of law school. Congratulations. At this time, I'd like to extend an invitation to both you and DV and all other Colby grads on the blog (Bandi, Ross, Drew) to get up to reunion weekend the first weekend in June. I went last year, it wasn't even my year and it was awesome. I highly recommend it. Basically, you can do all the things on campus that we should have been allowed to do when we went there.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

You mean we're allowed to say a sarcastic comment that might come off as right of center without the administration using thousands of dollars of audio/visual equipment to host a "speak-out?" I'm psyched. How about walking near the Seven Walls without Security Guard Coombs (notice how I don't say "Officer") spinning his tires with his SUV with the little toy yellow lights on top making sure nobody's burning the art museum down?

I'm psyched.

Anonymous said...

DV

How about the "funeral for America" after the 2004 Presidential Election. I'm no fan of President Bush (aside from the tremendous pitch he threw at Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, that is), but gimme a break. And don't get me started on Coombs. He almost called the police on me once. For making fun of him. And I didn't swear at him or threaten him.

On a related note, the mailman who delivers to our office is none other than a guy by the name of Larry Graham. You might remember him as Napoleon. Every time he comes in and sees me he looks genuinely disappointed that I didn't end up in jail.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

hahahahhahahahahahaha!!!!!

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

That story about Larry Graham is unbelievably awesome. Made my day. I think I actually have "Larry 'Napoleon' Graham" as a category tag on How Youz Doin Baseball. I almost forgot about the funeral for America, as it pales in comparison to the F-word chalked all over the sidewalks in response to the "racist" school newspaper, President Adams's protest of a Facebook group and the "sit-in" that was in response to the school holding a luau that was apparently offensive to Hawaiians. It's actually shocking to see that Kerry didn't win that election after so many non-citizen international students from Colby fraudulently stuffed the ballot boxes in Waterville in 2004.

Anonymous said...

DV

The luau! That was after my time, but I'm still disappointed that I forgot about that one. What a sin.

While we're telling stories (sorry Pat, you put up a great post and it's devolved into this. I'll take the blame for it) my sophomore year there was a football player named Guito Joseph. He went to a costume party dressed as Buckwheat. This caused tremendous outrage from the entire Colby community, especially the African-American contigent. Yet, what was awesome about this whole thing is that Guito Joseph was, you guessed it, black. Just the highest of high comedy. The only reason I don't worry too much about the insanity of these things is knowing that the same things are happening at Bowdoin, Middlebury, Bates, etc.

--the Gunn