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

Pedroia: Adjustments vs. Regression

Fans and athletes alike enjoy playing the “no one believed” card. Most of the time it’s garbage but in the case of Dustin Pedroia perhaps there’s something there. Fans and analysts have been looking for reasons to doubt him for years and Pedroia just keeps exceeding all expectations.

In 2005, Pedroia tore up Double-A (.324/.409/.508) but struggled when he was promoted to Triple-A. Rather than recognize that he played the end of the season with a wrist injury, people doubted. In 2006, Pedroia played well in Triple-A (.305/.384/.426) but hit under .200 in 81 at-bats for Boston. So the doubts lingered.

So, in 2007 Pedroia puts up a .317/.380/.442 line in the majors and wins the Rookie of the Year. Then for an encore, he goes out and puts up a .326/.376/.493 line and wins the AL MVP. Surely now, everyone must be convinced that this is a player who makes adjustments and adapts to the level of his competition, right?

Our own Matthew Carruth wrote about Pedroia, “Even with the regression that should come on his bat next year…”

Now, Matthew is a lot smarter than me. And if someone as accomplished as he thinks that Pedroia will regress noticeably in 2009, that is a pretty good indication of where smart money is on this subject.

To buttress Matthew’s position, according to the RotoTimes Player Rater, Pedroia was the 12th-best fantasy hitter last year, putting up a dollar value of $31.68 in 2008. In other words, there’s not much room for continued improvement.

But none of Pedroia’s peripherals seem to be outrageous. Yes, he made a 42-point jump in his isolated slugging but his .167 mark ranked 85th in the majors. Yes, he more than doubled his HR output but neither his FB% (36 percent) nor his HR/FB (7.8 percent) are anywhere close to putting him on the first page of the FanGraph’s Leaderboards. Yes, Pedroia had a .336 BABIP last year but he had a .334 mark in the category the year before.

We make snap judgments about people all of the time. It’s one of the ways we make sense of the world. Pedroia is listed here as 5-foot-9 and he appears even smaller in person. He plays hard. We see small, white and scrappy and our snap judgment is that Pedroia should be like David Eckstein, he of the lifetime .361 slugging percentage.

Because few complained or predicted regression when 6-foot-1 Chase Utley upped his ISO 47 points from .202 to .249, did they? Utley’s a big guy and no one is surprised when a big guy displays power. Plus Utley did this going from age 25 to 26, when improvement is a reasonable thing to expect.

Pedroia had his ISO leap from age 23 to 24.

Anyway, a lot of things went right for Pedroia last year and it would not be a surprise to see a drop in last year’s numbers. At the very least, he could pull an Ian Kinsler and come down with an injury and miss 35 games. But what player who has only been in the majors for two seasons could we not say that about?

This could be the last year to get Pedroia at a bargain. That is because if he puts up a season like 2008 again, everyone will see it as a trend and not a fluke and act accordingly in the future. The bottom line is Pedroia is a great baseball player and someone you want on your fantasy team.