Dustin Pedroia

Roster Recap: Dustin Pedroia’s Power Returns, But So Do His Injuries

Welcome to BP Boston’s Roster Recap series! Over the next four months, we’ll be breaking down every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. There’s no better time than the offseason to review the best (there was some best!) and worst (there was a lot of worst!) of the past year in red and navy. You can see previous editions of Roster Recap here.

Long one of the Red Sox’s most dependable players, Dustin Pedroia has seen injuries hinder his production over the past few seasons. That was especially true in 2015, when a series of maladies, including a hamstring strain that sidelined him for over two months, held Pedroia to just 93 games for Boston, his fewest since the 2010 campaign.

Even when he was on the field, things didn’t exactly turn out as expected for the veteran second baseman. Pedroia was better at the plate than he has been since 2011 and saw a reemergence of his power, which had greatly declined in the years leading up to 2015. Yet just as his offensive output surged, Pedroia’s fielding, long among the best in baseball, fell back down to earth. Although one season’s worth of defensive metrics aren’t enough to confirm his defense is in decline, Pedroia didn’t perform up to his usual stellar standards with the glove.

All told, Pedroia’s season was a mixed bag, much like that of the team’s itself.

What Went Right in 2015

After his offensive production dipped considerably in 2014, Pedroia underwent surgery on his left wrist to heal a persistent injury that had been giving him problems for upwards of two years. The surgery certainly seemed to correct the issue, with Pedroia enjoying his best campaign at the plate in a while. The 32-year-old batted .291/.356/.441 with 33 extra-base hits and a 116 wRC+ over 425 plate appearances.

Even more notably, Pedroia saw the return of his power stroke, with his .441 slugging percentage and .150 ISO representing his highest totals since 2012. The improved production showed that Pedroia still has much to contribute at the plate. With his wrist healed, Pedroia began punishing inside fastballs like the days of old, with his two home-run performance on Opening Day against the Phillies serving as a sign of things to come.

While Pedroia is no longer in the conversation for best second baseman in baseball, he proved he can still hang with some of the best players at the keystone in the game. Pedroia finished within the top 10 among MLB second baseman in bWAR, wRC+, wOBA and slugging percentage.

What Went Wrong in 2015

As has been the case in recent seasons, Pedroia just couldn’t stay on the field for large periods of 2015. He suffered a hamstring strain in late June that was expected to sideline him for only a few weeks. Instead, the injury kept Pedroia out of Boston’s lineup for nearly three months after he re-aggravated the strain, and the 10-year veteran didn’t play regularly again until early September.

All this came after a knee injury sidelined Pedroia for a brief period earlier in the season. These struggles with injuries underscored how much of a problem Pedroia’s health has become in recent years, with his body continuing to prevent him from playing consistently.

When Pedroia was in the lineup, his defense didn’t measure up to its past excellence. Long a perennial Gold Glove contender at second base, Pedroia performed far closer to a league-average level in the field. And according to Defensive Runs Saved, he was actually worth -3 runs for Boston on defense in 2015.

Even if we shouldn’t put too much stock into single-season samples of defensive metrics, any decline in Pedroia’s fielding, long his best calling card, is a hit to his overall production. Coupled with his diminished value on the bases, and Pedroia isn’t quite the excellent all-around player he once was.

What to Expect in 2016

For the 10th straight season, Pedroia will be penciled into the club’s lineup at second base on Opening Day. How much he plays after that is the big question. For their part, the Red Sox have stated they plan to give Pedroia more days off during the season, which certainly seems like a logical move at this point.

Given his play in 2015, Pedroia showed he still has plenty left in the tank, especially on offense. Whether he can recover some of his previous excellence in the field will bear watching and probably go a long way toward determining just how valuable Pedroia remains to the Red Sox as he ages into his mid-thirties. For a player who has long been essential to Boston’s success, here’s hoping Pedroia has a few more years of quality play left in him.

Photo by Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports Images

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Ralph Griffin

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