The (tied for) first-place Boston Red Sox have had a lot of reasons for their success so far this season. The headlines have been dominated by their young breakout stars (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.), and the swan song of their venerable veteran, David Ortiz. Lost in all that positivity has been the reemergence of second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is quietly putting together another of his signature seasons after seeing his production dip in recent years.
The 32 (soon to be 33)-year-old Pedroia is now in his 11th year in a Boston uniform. The former American League Rookie of the Year and MVP has always been a solid producer for the team but injuries contributed to declining numbers in 2014 and 2015. Now more than a third of the way through the 2016 season, Pedey appears to have found his groove again, as he has been the quiet anchor of the lineup.
Health has been a key in 2016 for Pedroia. After missing a combined 96 games over the past two years he has played in 62 of a possible 64 games this season. He has contributed a .317 batting average, seven home runs and 27 RBIs. He also has 82 hits, 19 doubles and 45 runs scored, putting him on pace for a truly impressive stat line at by season’s end. His 126 OPS+ is currently the third-best mark of his career, and highest since the 2011 season, when he finished ninth in MVP voting.
Previously good for about 20 stolen bases a year, Pedroia doesn’t run much anymore. He has four steals this year but was never blazing fast to begin with. Being more cautious on the base paths has been a good way to keep him out of injury-risk situations that he seems to frequently find because of his all-out playing style.
FanGraphs reflects other ways that Pedroia has been able to reinvent himself and bring about his renewed success. He has always sprayed the ball to all fields during his career but there seems to be more of a concentrated effort to go the opposite way this year. The percentage of balls (38.6) he has put in play to the right side is by far a career high. He is also making a little better contact overall, connecting with 94 percent of all pitches he has offered at that were within the strike zone; his best mark since 2010.
Pedroia’s resurgence has not been limited to just at the plate. Always a strong defender, he has shown no signs of slowing down in the field despite having reached an age often associated with eroding skills. He has regained his status as an all-around star for the team, yet has ironically seems to have been lost a bit in the shuffle given the many stellar performances happening in Boston’s lineup.
The seven-year, $100 million contract extension the second baseman signed in 2014 and started in 2015 had started looking like a possible financial burden if his numbers continued to slip. However, even with his inevitable decline sometime in the coming years, it looks like there is still plenty of meat on the bone for the team to get some excellent production out of their stalwart star. Pedroia has shown that if healthy he still has the game, and the Red Sox and their fans should sit back and continue to enjoy the wonder that is the Laser Show.
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