- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Dustin Pedroia: Gritty and Stuff

Dustin Pedroia must have wondered exactly how he insulted the patron saint of thumbs. He injured the abductor muscle in his right thumb in May, causing him to miss six games, and then a month later, he hyperextended the same thumb. As my kid would say, “ouchers miscouchers.”

There’s no way of knowing how that specifically impacted his hitting, but you have to believe it certainly didn’t help. Despite the thumb injuries (and a host of other dings), Pedroia still managed to hit 15 home runs, steal 20 bags and amass a triple slash of .290/.347/.449, placing him eighth on the Zach Sanders supernatural end of season rankings at second base.

What you can point to is his first and second half splits, which suggest that playing hurt wasn’t helping him. From April 5  to July 3 (when he hyperextended the thumb), he hit .266/.326/.400 with six home runs and six stolen bases over 338 plate appearances. Upon his return from the disabled list on July 19, Pedroia hit .318/.372/.508 with nine home runs and 14 stolen bases over 285 plate appearances and looked far more like himself.

But even take the season as a whole and across the board, this was really vintage Pedroia, (with one exception).

His hit trajectory was very much in line with his career averages:

He hit slightly more ground balls in 2012, but overall, there were hardly any changes that would suggest new trends or red flags or anything that would get us worked up in the fantasy baseball universe.

Looking further at his plate discipline – if you liked the 2011 version of Dustin Pedroia, well nothing much changed:

That’s a pretty consistent approach at the dish. If anything, his contact rate was up and he was swinging at fewer balls outside the strike zone in 2012. Add to that a drop in his swinging strike rate from 5.2% to 4.7%, and you start to think he was even a tad bit better with the bat this season versus last.

But the obvious stinker in 2012 was his walk rate, which tumbled to 7.7% after demonstrating much more patience of the past three seasons:

That walk rate dip might have a little to do with how aggressive opposing pitchers were with the Red Sox lineup, and certainly looking at the O-swing rates and Zone %, there’s not much to suggest that Pedroia was simply hacking. My expectation is that his walk rate is likely to come back up into a more career-average rate of 9% in 2013.

Relative to playing traditional 5×5, his counting stats took a bit of a hit in 2012. This was in part due to playing time loss because of the unluckiest thumb in America, and also in part due to the rotten offense that Boston wound up featuring. Pedroia’s runs and RBI were a good deal off the pace we’ve come to expect in 2012, but the decisions Ben Cherington and the Red Sox brass make over the next several months will no doubt impact his potential to get back 100 run, 80 RBI standard. If you’re sitting on Pedroia in the mid-$30 range, you have to believe he can get back there.

If you don’t own Pedroia, this might very well be an opportunity to inquire. He’s still just 29 and it’s possible that his 2012 season will be considered a “down” year, when most indications are that he was very much the same hitter that was so highly valued in the run up to the draft. If he can stay on the field in 2013, he’s easily top five at his position, and can challenge for top three.