Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia

Hitting second: Dustin Pedroia
[B-R] [FanGraphs] [Josh Kalk] [ESPN] [Hittracker]

After winning AL Rookie of the Year honors despite a horrible April and a broken hamate bone the last month plus of 2007, Dustin Pedroia has hit the ground running in his sophomore season. No slump for this guy, who just seems to will his way on base. He’s taken 121 PA as the #2 hitter, and has gone .336/.375/.473 in that role. He’s continued to hit well at Fenway, boasting a .333/.369/.487 line there versus .271/.316/.343 on the road. Pedroia has also scorched relief pitching this year, hitting .365/.404/.558 in 58 PA with 7 doubles, his only HR and 11 RBI.

How he’s pitched to
Pitchers have chosen to stick with fastballs and sliders when pitching to Pedey; those pitches make up approximately 80% of what he sees up there. The logic is clear – to a small guy with a big swing like that, you want to keep throwing him hard stuff. At 3.71 pitches per plate appearance, he doesn’t take as much as other members of the Red Sox lineup, but he presents a challenge to a lot of pitchers because he is able to foul off pitches when he needs to, and is able to hit a variety of pitches (that’s what makes him a good #2). In 2008, he’s hitting .264 on fastballs, .333 on sliders and changeups, .400 on cutters, and 1.000 on the very few sinkers and splitters he’s seen. Last year, Pedroia feasted on four- and two-seam fastballs, hitting .389 and .375, respectively. He’s most aggressive on the hard stuff, swinging approximately 1/4 of the time. And while he’s more cautious with other pitches, he hit off-speed stuff well enough (.286 on sliders, .273 on changeups).

Hitting approach
Pedroia is hitting .304/.344/.419 as of today, with 14 doubles and a homer to his credit. Pedroia is notoriously tough to fan (only 42 times last season, lowest for a rookie since Juan Pierre came up). While his plate discipline seems to be improving (only swinging at 21.07% of pitches out of the strike zone, compared to 24.41% last year), he is making less contact when he does swing at bad pitches (76.4% in 2008, 84.6% in 2007). My guess is that this is just statistical anomaly, as his career rate is 83.4%. His contact rate in the strike zone is a robust 95.3% (a career high), so he is progressing as a hitter. On the negative side, his walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up, but just by a couple of percent either way. His 2008 GB/LD/FB ratios are 50/22/28, compared to 34/18/38 last year, so while he’s making good contact more often, he’s also putting it on the ground a lot more this season. Pedroia’s numbers haven’t really suffered much, as his .331 BABIP is very similar to last year’s .334. His only HR this season was a Monster shot on April 18 against Josh Rupe of Texas; his HR totals will increase when he starts to loft the ball a bit more.

Pedroia covers the strike zone well, but if he does have one Achilles’ Heel, it might be really high, inside fastballs, of which he’s missed quite a few this season, judging by Josh Kalk’s scatterplot. That being said, he can take a high fastball and knock it for a single. He’s proven pretty adept at taking outside fastballs the other way down the line, and he can also turn on plate-in pitches and ground them down the third base line. He might have a second weak spot on off-speed stuff low and away, but there’s probably not enough data yet to say that.

Pedroia is actually pretty slow for a middle infielder, but he’s a smart baseball player, and rarely makes mistakes running the bases. In terms of the stolen base, this has been a banner year for the usually conservative Red Sox, and Pedey has gotten into the act this season, stealing 4 bases without getting caught once. Considering he stole 7 all of last season, you could say he’s getting more comfortable on the basepaths.

As you can see for the splits, Pedroia is at his best in the #2 hole and at Fenway. I would like to see him walk a little more and bring that OBP up past .360, but he’s a tough out, and wears down pitchers. He’s able to fight off tough pitches and whack fastballs with gusto; once his flyball ratio increases, we should see more power out of him, though he’s doing a good job with 14 doubles already. My guess as to why he’s hitting more grounders is that he’s focusing on making better contact, as well as doing a better job of “hittin’ em where they ain’t”. I am not worried about Pedey’s hitting one bit, and think he’ll have another great season.

Read my breakdown of Jacoby Ellsbury here.


2 Responses to Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia

  1. Pingback: Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz « Red Sox Talk

  2. Pingback: Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: J.D. Drew « Red Sox Talk

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