Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pedroia on Path to Cooperstown

Pedroia's numbers are slipping, but he's still headed for the Hall of Fame
A couple days ago I was listening to WEEI on the morning commute, and one of the talk show hosts said that Dustin Pedroia, because of his diminishing power, is not going to wind up as a Hall of Famer. While I certainly don't dispute the fact that Pedroia's pop has declined significantly over the past few years (one need only to look at his dwindling home run numbers), I disagreed with the notion that Pedroia is not a Hall of Famer.

Now, to be clear, Pedroia is not yet a Hall of Famer. That is to say if he retired tomorrow, his credentials wouldn't merit enshrinement into Cooperstown. I think he'd be regarded in the same light as Thurman Munson--a great hitter and winner at a key defensive position, but not dominant enough during his prime to compensate for his brief career the way Ralph Kiner, Sandy Koufax, and Hank Greenberg were.

(The Munson comparison is also fitting because they both won Rookie of the Year, an MVP award, made multiple All-Star teams, won multiple Gold Gloves, and had a career OPS+ of 116)

But Munson was on the Hall of Fame path before his career was tragically cut short at 32, when he still had plenty of baseball left in front of him. Pedroia is on that same path, but like Munson will be remembered as one of the best to play his position during his era, but not the best. Munson was ultimately overshadowed by Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench, as Pedroia is and will be by Robinson Cano and Chase Utley.

And yet, Pedroia is the only American League second baseman to win MVP in the last 55 years, since Nellie Fox in 1959 (Munson was the only Junior Circuit backstop to be named MVP between Elston Howard in 1963 and Ivan Rodriguez in 1999). He's only the third to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in cosecutive seasons too, joining Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard. In this millennium he's the only second baseman to win multiple World Series with the same team. He's one of only two Red Sox player, Carl Yastrzemski being the other, to exceed 100 home runs and stolen bases, and is already the second-greatest second baseman in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr. Pedroia's career is only half over, and he's already done some special things.

Besides, the diminutive second baseman was never going to make it into the Hall of Fame on his power numbers alone. He just hit his 100th home run last month off Oakland's Ryan Cook, but is on pace for only five or six after hitting just nine last year. If he's truly a single-digit home run guy going forward, then he probably wont make it to 200. He's never slugged .500 and, barring a major power resurgence, never will. As a table-setter he's never been a big RBI guy, either. He's too small to hit home runs like Ryne Sandberg or drive in runs like Jeff Kent, and not fast enough to steal bases like Joe Morgan.

No, Pedroia's going to the Hall of Fame because, like a poor man's Jackie Robinson, he does everything well. He gets lots of hits, especially doubles, has a great batting eye, hits for good averages, steals bases, and plays fantastic defense (if he didn't play for the Red Sox and wasn't pint-sized, he'd probably be like Alex Gordon or Ben Zobrist, by which I mean one of the most underrated players in baseball). As long as he stays healthy, Pedroia should have no problem reaching 2,000 hits, 500 doubles, and at least 60 bWAR (a good starting point for Hall of Fame-worthy players). And with at least seven more years in Boston after this one thanks to the contract extension he signed last summer, it wouldn't surprise anyone if he added another World Series ring or two to his collection and retire as his generation's Derek Jeter--a great team leader and a winner with good offensive numbers from a demanding defensive position.

Pedroia isn't the power hitter he used to be, but that's normal. He's going to be 31 in two months. He's still on track for 40-45 doubles, 90 or so runs, and more than five wins above replacement. Pedroia's still a great player, nearly All-Star caliber, and as long as he follows a normal aging curve he's going to the Hall of Fame.

That's no sure thing, especially given the all-out way Pedroia plays the game and the way second basemen have been known to fall apart without warning, but I feel pretty confident saying that when it's all said and done, he'll have a plaque hanging in Cooperstown.


  1. In a head-to-head with Chase Utley, he loses.

  2. In terms of peak value absolutely, but if Pedroia could end up with more career value if he can avoid the injuries that plagued Utley's early-mid 30s