How to Tell Quickly if Dustin Pedroia Is Back

It’s safe to say that Dustin Pedroia has never been lacking for confidence. And remember, Pedroia’s confidence stands out among other major-league baseball players, who are already some of the most confident individuals around, by necessity. So it’s not just that Pedroia has 80-grade self-confidence; it’s that he has 80-grade self-confidence even out of the population pool limited to people with 80-grade self-confidence relative to the general populace. Pedroia is three standard deviations above the mean of those who are three standard deviations above the mean. Related: Pedroia’s 2014 ended with wrist surgery, and these days he’s feeling really good about things.

This is something from November:

“Now that it’s fixed, it’s night and day. I can already tell that. There’s a lot of IOU’s to hand out to people, so I’m pretty excited about it.”

This is something from a couple weeks ago:

“The ball’s going to go farther,” Pedroia said. “The balls are going 400 feet now (in batting practice). And then, when you add 5 mph (against pitchers), I’m not a chemist or anything, it’s probably going to go 500.”

Pedroia is almost a caricature of his player type, in how often he’s played through pain. In 2013, he was having problems with his thumb. Throughout 2014, he was having problems with his wrist. Not only did this affect Pedroia, directly, during the season; he also couldn’t do his normal upper-body workouts, so there were also indirect effects. Because of his injuries, Pedroia couldn’t hit the ball like usual, and while he still managed to have an overall successful season, 2014 was the first time in Pedroia’s career he didn’t post even a .100 ISO at home.

In a weird way, injuries can be encouraging, at least when they’re resolved, and when they can serve to explain an otherwise mysterious performance decline. When you examine Pedroia’s record, it absolutely makes sense that he would’ve struggled to hit for power last year, because of wrist discomfort and because of limited exercise. And if the wrist is fixed, and if the other things have healed up, it seems downright sensible to figure Pedroia will get back to what he used to be. After all, the problem’s solved, right? He’s not even 32 years old. He’s a few years from having hit 15 home runs. Why shouldn’t Pedroia be able to bounce back?

The fate of Dustin Pedroia will go some distance toward determining the fate of the Red Sox. Pedroia seems promising, and the Red Sox seem promising. Pedroia’s got upside, but a return to form can’t be absolutely taken for granted. So people are going to be on the lookout early on to see where Pedroia might stand. With that in mind, I think there could be one handy indicator of what Pedroia is in 2015, an indicator that shouldn’t take long to emerge.

It’s all about Dustin Pedroia hitting at home. From Baseball Savant, here are his extra-base hits at Fenway since 2008:

pedroiahomexbh

You can find pitches almost everywhere, but for the most part, they’re concentrated over the inner half. Few hitters have been able to take advantage of the Green Monster like Dustin Pedroia has been able to take advantage of the Green Monster, and while pitchers have stayed away from pretty much all righties in Boston, that’s historically been especially true with Pedroia. Used to be, when Pedroia was more of a terror, pitchers targeted the outer third, trying to force Pedroia to go up the middle or the other way.

Alas, when the injuries hit, strategies started to change. The injuries changed Pedroia, and opponents responded to that. You can find some pretty good forecasts by examining Vegas betting lines, because Vegas has untold amounts of money invested in the given event(s) so they need to be as accurate as possible. Similarly, there’s a lot of value in seeing how different teams approach a hitter or a pitcher, because baseball teams have a lot on the line, so they need to look for every advantage. Teams won’t give you their proprietary scouting reports, but you can infer them. Look at Dustin Pedroia’s pitch patterns at Fenway. Here are his rates of inside pitches at home, where “inside pitch” is defined simply as being on the Pedroia side of the middle of the plate.

pedroiainside

When Dustin Pedroia was more healthy and productive, his inside-pitch rate at home hovered in the upper 30s. Last season it jumped all the way up to 45%, and while that might seem like a subtle adjustment, it moved Pedroia well up the right-handed leaderboard. What it suggests is that pitchers, justifiably, were less afraid of Pedroia rattling the Monster with a line drive. Here are some heat maps, covering the last four seasons:

PedroiaHome

You can see the shift in from the outer third. It’s not that Pedroia was incapable of punishing a pitch last season, but with his swing integrity compromised, there was just a lot less risk closer in toward the hands. Here are Pedroia’s home groundball rates on inside pitches:

Season GB%, Home, Inside
2008 41%
2009 34%
2010 32%
2011 43%
2012 37%
2013 40%
2014 53%

When Dustin Pedroia is well, he’s a threat to dent the Monster. Pitchers respond to that by making it more challenging for him to get ahead of a pitch. When Dustin Pedroia isn’t well, he’s less of a threat, and pitchers respond to that by mixing it up and seeing if they can get Pedroia jammed. Scouting reports don’t take very long to update themselves. According to Pedroia, 2015 is going to be a year of redemption. He thinks that his power is back. If his power is back, it shouldn’t take long for that to be reflected in Pedroia’s Fenway Park pitch patterns. He won’t get challenged over the inner half if opponents think Pedroia’s recovered his All-Star ability.

So there’s your indicator. Over the first several home series, pay attention to how Pedroia is getting pitched. If pitchers are still confident coming in, they’re not buying that Pedroia is a threat. There’s value in that. If pitchers are no longer so confident coming in, they’re seeing something that’s telling them they should go back to staying away. There’s value in that. If Dustin Pedroia is back, opponents will pick up on it quickly, and he’ll be pitched like he used to be pitched. Maybe it’s a bit of a leap to put so much faith in an inferred scouting report, but pitch patterns don’t lie. Those are the patterns of baseball teams trying to get Dustin Pedroia out.

If you want to know if Dustin Pedroia is back, watch to see if opponents act like Dustin Pedroia is back. Or just watch to see if Dustin Pedroia slams a bunch of dingers. That’s fine, too, but it doesn’t let you feel like as much of a detective.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ben Revere
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Ben Revere
1 year 3 months ago

I can do everything. I can do power lifting. I couldn’t even squat last year. I’m squatting 400 pounds now. Last year, my hamstring [shut] down, my quads were weak. Now, I’m getting all my strength back.

I’m not a chemist or anything, but if I could earn 28 RBIs like that last year, I’ll earn like 128 RBIs now that I’m full strength.

Matthew
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

I bet Ben Revere could squat 400lb

Woop it up!
Guest
Woop it up!
1 year 3 months ago

Yea, he can definitely squat 400 pounds at least once.

LHPSU
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LHPSU
1 year 3 months ago

Hey, Ben Revere hit a home run last year. He’s a bona fide slugger.

sam
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sam
1 year 3 months ago

I’m no marine biologist, but I’m skeptical of Pedroia’s ability to hit a ball 500 feet.

Cobinson Ramo
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Cobinson Ramo
1 year 3 months ago

Im no physicist, but I’m skeptical of his ability to remain healthy all season.

Smurf
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Smurf
1 year 3 months ago

Soooo glad Pedey never pursued chemistry.

Manny Ramirez
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Manny Ramirez
1 year 3 months ago

Pursuing chemistry sure helped me.

Steven
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Steven
1 year 3 months ago

I am a chemist and I have no fucking idea how far the ball will go.

pft
Guest
pft
1 year 3 months ago

20% farther, all else being equal, which it usually isn’t

everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 3 months ago

Age 24: 581pa, 117wrc+
Age 25: 726pa, 127wrc+
Age 26: 724pa, 112wrc+
Age 27: 351pa, 128wrc+
Age 28: 731pa, 133wrc+
Age 29: 623pa, 114wrc+
Age 30: 724pa, 115wrc+
Age 31: 600pa, 99wrc+

seems like a pretty normal aging curve.

maybe a little bigger dropoff last year than you’d expect but nothing crazy.

Even Pedroia being “back” probably means 105-115wrc+, not 125-135 like his big years.

pft
Guest
pft
1 year 3 months ago

Pedroias been injured almost every year since 2010. Why he has to dive for every other ball when the average 2Bman dives for only 10% I don’t know. Sure he makes more plays, but not that many more, and it takes its toll, especially now he is north of 30. Head first slides into 1B when your team is winning by blow out, stealing 2B when your down 3 runs late in the game and getting caught all other examples of plays he gets injured on

One thing about Pedroia you learn not to pay any attention to what he says healthwise.

BTW, Pedroia has no power, he has Fenway power. Different thing. His road SLG the last 4 years is a hair over 400, almost 80 points below his home numbers.

Zarc
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Zarc
1 year 3 months ago

Espn is leaking

Rainier Wolfcastle
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Rainier Wolfcastle
1 year 3 months ago

I’m no Jeff Sullivan…

That’s the joke.

Joe B
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Joe B
1 year 3 months ago

I don’t know who ever thought Pedroia was a slugger besides himself. Even still I would want him as my second baseman any day of the week. He plays good defense and is a great #2 hitter to have in a lineup. He gets on base, hits plenty of doubles (granted the green monster helps), steals some bags, and always hustles albeit overzealous at times. 5 WAR players don’t grow on trees no matter where they play half their games.

Ryan Braun
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Ryan Braun
1 year 3 months ago

I’m not a chemist or anything. If I was, I’d have a fool proof path to the Hall of Fame.

Ryan Braun
Guest
Ryan Braun
1 year 3 months ago

Hey, you! Stop pretending to be me, Ryan Braun the position player instead of yourself, Ryan Braun the pitcher!

kman
Guest
kman
1 year 3 months ago

I actually have a bit of trouble understanding this argument, and there have been a few articles around here lately about using pitch location data to predict how well a hitter is hitting. Why do we have this assumption that pitchers will pick up on how well a guy is doing so much faster than the rest of the population? If a guy is swinging well but being BABIP’d to death early in the season and has poor numbers, are pitchers (or I guess team scouts, for that matter), really that up on every single hitter that they would adjust how they pitch before any fans would notice that this hitter is actually swinging the bat better?

Richie
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Richie
1 year 3 months ago

Factoring in spring training, absotively posilutely. But even separate from that, yes that is exactly what forward scouts do.

Orsulakfan
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Orsulakfan
1 year 3 months ago

Pitchers can tell in a matter of a couple of swings what a guy is responding to, how he’s seeing the ball, etc. Over the course of several games, pitch patterns should be a good indicator.

KK-Swizzle
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KK-Swizzle
1 year 3 months ago

I’m no detective, but I could have been a chemist. Not sure how either of these relates to how far baseballs will fly. Knew I should been a baseball scout :)

Snarfle
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Snarfle
1 year 3 months ago

Guys, come on, he clearly meant chemist in the British sense, which is to say, pharmacist. I went into this thinking it would be funny in an absurd way, but now I realize it’s semi-funny in an unfounded allegations sort of way. Allegations I myself do not believe. Dang.

RobM
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RobM
1 year 3 months ago

I can see some slight rebound hitting wise this year, but his best years are almost assuredly behind him. He’s in his 30s now and his six year extension doesn’t even kick in until 2016. Still a decent player, but ideally the Red Sox should trade him as also drives a lot of value from his glove, and defense is a younger man’s game. Unfortunately, trading him really isn’t an option, blocking Betts from the position where he could deliver the most value.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
1 year 3 months ago

Pedroia is still a 4-5 WAR player annually. Even last year, he had the 3rd or 4th highest WAR among 2nd baseman

If Pedroia can get back to say back to say .300 13ish hrs (pretty much his 2013 numbers) hes the 2nd best 2ndbaseman in baseball only behind Cano

middkid45
Member
middkid45
1 year 3 months ago

7th highest, actually (6th if you don’t count Zobrist who played 79 games there). Still pretty impressive for being injured. When your floor is 4 WAR you’re doing alright.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 3 months ago

he needed a giant defensive rating around double what it had been the previous two years to get 4war last year. that’s likely not sustainable.

RobM
Guest
RobM
1 year 3 months ago

It was heavily defense driven, which is why I mentioned defense is a young man’s game. He is at the point where is going to trend the other direction. He also basically matched his best defensive season ever. Expect some regression, although some improvement in hitting. I can see another 4 WAR season in him, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he slips below that. My point has more to do with the extension, which hasn’t even started yet. History says this won’t end well, and that’s too bad since they have a great replacement right in house in Betts.

Alex87878
Member
Alex87878
1 year 3 months ago

You realize how team friendly Pedroia’s extension is? First of all it was 8 years for 110m. it max’s at about 15m and drop back down to 13 and 12m in the final two years, around his age 39 season I believe. He wants to be with the red sox for life and turned down a chance to ever hit free agency to do so. Betts is an OFer! He will likely never play 2B for the Boston Red Sox. Just watching him play, Betts is better suited for the OF with his speed.

Alex87878
Member
Alex87878
1 year 3 months ago

Anyone who suggests trading pedroia is clearly no red sox fan, because Pedroia is so much more to the team than just the Red Sox second baseman. He is the voice of the clubhouse, and deserves to wear a C on his jersey.

I don’t believe he will ever be the player who hit .315 with 20 HR ever again. But healthy, he most certainly can have another couple years of .290-.300 with 10-15 HR seasons. Not a chance the Red Sox trade Pedroia. And he isn’t blocking Betts, Betts may open the season blocking one of the Red Sox veteran OFers.

@outfieldgrass24
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Pedroia’s gonna fit right in on MLB Network in a few years.

pasels
Guest
pasels
1 year 3 months ago

Flashbacks to 2011. How often do your #1 and #2 hitters combine for almost 17 WAR?

What a great season to be a Red Sox fan!

Orsulakfan
Guest
Orsulakfan
1 year 3 months ago

Except for that end part.

Barry Bonds
Guest
Barry Bonds
1 year 3 months ago

I am a chemist and I did hit the ball 500 feet.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

You can find some pretty good forecasts by examining Vegas betting lines, because Vegas has untold amounts of money invested in the given event(s) so they need to be as accurate as possible.

Apologies for the minor quibble, but Vegas sets lines based on public betting moreso than making their own predictions of sporting outcomes.

Anon
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Anon
1 year 3 months ago

+1

Much like ticket prices and player salaries, the betting line and prediction accuracy have little to do with one another.

Richie
Guest
Richie
1 year 3 months ago

If they didn’t, deep-pocketed and sophisticated bettors would’ve driven the books out of business ages ago. There simply aren’t all that many of your ‘Mom and Pop’ bettors out there. Their small bets, even in totality, get dwarfed by the bigger action.

Richie
Guest
Richie
1 year 3 months ago

Vegas sets lines based on the money coming in, which in bulk (largest amounts) comes from sharpies. Not from “I’m a’bettin’ 10 bucks on my home town team!” bettors. Also, last I read (few years ago now) this idea is pretty much a myth anyway. That Vegas is happy to take a 60/40 split on a game where they’re confident they got the line right. Maximize expected profit by getting both the vig and collecting from 60 while paying off 40. The biggest books got plenty of games/wagers through which to diversify away risk.

RobM
Guest
RobM
1 year 3 months ago

That’s right. Many have bought into the improvement in the Red Sox so the money is flowing that way. Vegas more than happy to take that money.

james wilson
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james wilson
1 year 3 months ago

“Apologies for the minor quibble, but Vegas sets lines based on public betting moreso than making their own predictions of sporting outcomes.”

I used to think that. But since I’ve had a few conversations with a major Vegas bookmaker, and it ain’t necessarily so. They will go mano a mano against you and a few hundred of your best friends at times. They like taking sides, are good at it, and occasionally take a hosing.

Richie
Guest
Richie
1 year 3 months ago

Darn. Should’ve read farther before posting myself. :-)

Nah
Guest
Nah
1 year 3 months ago

Both comments have better than average value.

james wilson
Guest
james wilson
1 year 3 months ago

The drawback to Pedroia is that his tiny frame has been made into something so far above it’s expected capabilities that injury leaves him little margin to play with. And since he has been injured every year for several years, he will be injured again this year.

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