Dustin Pedroia: What the Second Baseman Means to the Boston Red Sox
Despite the fact that Pedroia has struggled for much of the season, he remains irreplaceable to the Red Sox, a team which has rebounded from a 2-10 start to achieve a 35-26 (.574) record—the best mark in the American League and the third best mark in baseball.
To the naked eye, Pedroia's pedestrian .247/.361/.338 batting line wouldn't be missed much. His nine doubles in 231 ABs (one 2B per 25.7 AB) this year is a far cry from the 165 doubles in 2101 AB's (one 2B per 12.7 AB) that he hit from 2007-2010.
But even a diminished Pedroia remains a vital cog in the machinery of the Boston Red Sox.
Defensively, Pedroia has been an absolute wizard this year. His 6.2 UZR is the highest of any secondbaseman in the league. His range in the field is among the best of any player in the league. Neither Marco Scutaro nor Jed Lowrie bring the same defensive tenacity and raw skill as Pedroia.
Offensively, 2011 has obviously been a struggle. Pedroia's issues, however, are more than likely a question of timing rather than approach.
After all, he missed nearly the entire second half of the season last year, and he's been playing with an injured knee since mid-May. It would take a superhuman effort not to be impacted by these factors. Pedroia is understandably rusty and out-of-whack.
Ironically enough, Pedroia's approach has been stellar this year. He's walking at a career high pace (14.9 percent), and his 41 walks are the highest of any major league second baseman.
Pedroia has seen the second most pitches (1171) of any major league player. He's seeing 4.19 pitches per plate appearance, the tenth best ratio in the league.
This type of patience at the top of the lineup has been key to the ability of Boston's offense to start fast in games.
Simply put, Pedroia is a grind for any pitcher.
His ability to work the count and see multiple pitches is extremely important to the success of Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, the heart of the Boston order.
With all due respect to Marco Scutaro, Jed Lowrie, Carl Crawford, and JD Drew—all potential replacements for the two-slot if Pedroia was to miss time—none of them have quite the same skill as Pedroia in working the count.
So, there you have it. Even a Pedroia who is struggling to find his stroke is important to the chemistry of the lineup. Replacing Pedroia's diminished production is possible, but it could come at the price of the production of the rest of the lineup.
And once Pedroia finds his stroke—which he most certainly will if healthy—he is one of the best hitters in baseball.
Noting the intangibles Pedroia provides is also important. He's the emotional leader and the actual captain (sorry, 'Tek) of this team.
There's no replacing the leadership of Pedroia.
Dan is a Boston Red Sox featured columnist. Follow him on twitter @dantheman_06.
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