Dustin Pedroia perfectly fits the mold of a player whose home fans adore him but no one else can stand. His max-effort style and ability to overachieve despite a lack of flashy tools is endearing to residents of New England, but frustrating to other fans. After all, if guys can will themselves into being elite players by being "scrappy" and "gritty" why doesn't everyone do it?
This attitude probably overlooks the fact that Pedroia does have good tools, even if they aren't of the flashy variety. He has excellent plate discipline for one, as well as a slick glove. When you add a surprising amount of power to that mix you have a very valuable player, which is what Pedroia has been for so long. In 2014 he continues to be a valuable player with 2.3 WAR accumulated through 451 plate appearances.
However, this season has been a very different one for the Red Sox second baseman. For the first time Pedroia has been a below average player offensively, posting a 94 wRC+, a very low number for a player with a 117 career wRC+. The 30-year-old is having his worst offensive season to date, with career lows in a multitude of categories.
|Second Worst Single-Season Total||.288||.347||.415||.114||.344|
The biggest problem with Pedroia's bat the fact that his power is diminishing, something that has been happening for years.
If this trend continues Pedroia will become a player who is as punchless as he looks. Now, pairing that lack of power with excellent defense and a healthy portion of walks makes for a valuable player, as we are seeing this season, but a very different player.
Dustin Pedroia was never characterized by big-time power, his career high for home runs in a season in 21, but without the ability to make pitchers pay for their mistakes with extra-base hits he is more of a good player than an elite one.
At the age of 30, it's not as if Boston's second baseman is over the hill. He may well find the thump that's eluded him for the last couple of years, but things don't look especially good right now.
Pitchers have certainly noticed Pedroia's lack of pop and as a result they are holding nothing back when challenging the second baseman. Right now Pedroia ranks 4th in the MLB in percentage of fastballs seen (62.0%) and first in pitches in the zone (52.2%). It should be noted that these numbers aren't radically different from his career marks, but where he ranks in the majors is significant.
The fact that a guy with a career 117 wRC+ who plays in a hitter's park is seeing more pitches in the zone than anyone else is significant.
Dustin Pedroia might rebound from his slump, and continue to produce the kind of offense Red Sox fans have appreciated for years. That being said, at this juncture it's hard to think of his bat as one that is worth fearing.
Major League pitchers don't seem to think so.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs
Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.