2010 Red Sox Preview: Will Dustin Pedroia Step Up Or Fall Flat?

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2010 Red Sox Preview: Will Dustin Pedroia Step Up Or Fall Flat?
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During the off-season, Sox GM Theo Epstein shaped the 2010 club by trading hitting for pitching and defense. Offensive producers OF Jason Bay and 3B Mike Lowell were subtracted from the lineup and replaced with defensive standouts OF Mike Cameron and 3B Adrian Beltre. The money saved by not re-signing Bay was re-directed to acquiring free agent pitcher John Lackey.

The theory behind the moves was that the ballclub can win as many (or more) games as a result of improved run prevention as it can by maintaining the former level of run production.

Now, the challenge will be for the remaining players to stay within themselves and not try to do too much, and based on the comments of several of the ballplayers, I wonder whether some of the guys on the team understand they still need to play within their limitations.

Exhibit One: Dustin Pedoia’s comments from a couple of weeks ago: “Guys are going to have to step up. I’m going to have to step up, everyone is (going to have to step up). That’s how it goes during the season. Everyone’s going to have to have good at-bats, and put them together in a row, to score a lot of runs. We’ll do that.” Then he added: “I’ll hit more home runs…”

And that could prove to be a problem: by trying to step up will players actually take a step back?

In 2008, his ratio of ground balls to line drives to fly balls was 43/21/36. Last year, in the absence of Manny Ramirez, it appears Pedey tried to muscle up to replace some of the missing power. He hit far fewer ground balls and more fly balls in 2009 (39/20/41). In so doing, his batting average dropped 30 points and his OPS fell by 50 points - in spite of the fact his contact percentage remained consistent (92% in ‘08 and 93% in ‘09). Is there a correlation between the increased fly ball percentage and the decreased BA and OPS?

Consider some additional interesting metrics from 2009:

His BABIP fell from .334 to .300 - which accounted for some (if not all) of the decrease in his ribbies.

His batting eye improved dramatically and he drew many more walks (74 walks, an increase of 24 walks from 2008); thus he was able to maintain his OBP (.374 in ‘08 and .370 in ‘09) and his runs scored (118 RS in 653 AB in 2008 and 115 RS in 626 AB in 2009).

So, what kind of numbers will he put up in 2010? As I’ve mentioned previously in this series, I am not a devotee of the most widely-used projection systems: CHONE, Bill James and PECOTA. They all have problems. CHONE projections tend to be strong for hitters but weak for pitchers. The PECOTA system has the opposite problem — it is strong for pitchers, but weak for hitters. And while Bill James is well-known and an employee of the Red Sox, his annual projections are consistently overly-optimistic.

I prefer the work done by Ron Shandler (who is the godfather of ‘fanalytics’) and Mike Podhorzer (the new kid on the block).

Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster is must-reading for any baseball fan, especially if he/she is a fantasy baseball aficionado. Shandler and his minions do great work. They can be found at BaseballHeadquarters.com .

Podhorzer’s predictions at fantasypros911.com went 42-0 when compared head-to-head with other projection systems last year. Seriously, folks, if you don’t know about fantasypros911.com , it’s time that you take a look. Great stuff!

So what do these two systems project for Pedey for the upcoming season?

Shandler: .298, 20 HR, 74 RBI, 17 SB, 105 R
Podhorzer: .303, 16 HR, 70 RBI, 16 SB, 110 R

Not only is Manny Ramirez gone, but Jason Bay and Mike Lowell will be missing from the lineup as well. From my perspective, it seems a near-certainty that Pedroia will try to muscle up and that his batting average and walk rate will suffer as a result. I foresee another increase in his fly ball rate. Overall, his productivity will remain about the same - with a stagnant home run rate and increase in rbi - but due to the projected reduction in times on base and the diminished productivity of the guys hitting behind him, his runs scored will decline.

SOX1FAN projection: .290, 17 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB, 102 R

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