Fantasy fallout: Red Sox extend MVP Dustin Pedroia

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Dustin Pedroia celebrates with teammate David Ortiz at the end of a tremendous 2008 campaign. Is he going to be worth the big investment he’ll cost your fantasy team in 2009?(Icon/SMI)

It was announced on Wednesday that the Red Sox had re-signed reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia to a $40.5 million extension through 2014. While Pedroia, in my opinion, had no business actually winning the MVP award, this deal looks like a steal for the Red Sox. Those who drafted Pedroia or picked him up off waivers got some monster value out of him in 2008:

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | HR | RBI | R   | SB |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2008 |  24 | Red Sox | 653 | 0.326 | 17 |  83 | 118 | 20 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+

While this kind of year wasn’t expected by very many people, it actually looks quite sustainable. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Pedroia will improve in 2009. I’ve been looking forward to writing about Pedroia, so let’s dig into some of the numbers and see why I think improvement might be in order.

Power

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| 2006 |  22 | Red Sox | 89  |  2 |   3 |    10 |     14 |     14 | 0.0 |     26 |
| 2007 |  23 | Red Sox | 520 |  8 |  15 |     5 |      9 |      7 | 0.0 |     33 |
| 2008 |  24 | Red Sox | 653 | 17 |  20 |     9 |     10 |      7 | 0.0 |     32 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+

As you can see, True Home Runs looks very favorably at Pedroia. In 2007, tHR thought Pedroia’s five percent HR/FB should have been nine percent. In 2008, his HR/FB increased to 9 percent, and tHR now thinks it should have been higher than that at 10 percent.

If you look at Pedroia’s HitTracker chart, you can clearly see that he doesn’t have much raw power. In fact, the farthest ball Pedroia would have hit in 70 degree weather with no wind this season would have gone just 386 feet. This probably doesn’t surprise you given his size (take a look at the picture at the top of this article; Papi dwarfs Pedroia!), but I’m sure the tHR numbers do.

It seems that, while Pedroia doesn’t hit the ball very far, the park he plays in is perfectly suited for him. Look at the nHR/FB column. It was significantly lower than his tHR/FB in both years because in most other parks (or in a neutral park), much of his power would go away. But if he were allowed to play every game in Fenway, he would have been expected to hit 27 homers in 2008. Despite this, just 7 of his 17 homers (41 percent) came at home this year. That number doesn’t match up to what True Home Runs sees (66 percent), and it should adjust itself in 2009 in the way of more Fenway dingers.

Further validating a potential future increase is his doubles rate. While Pedroia hits 43 percent of balls in play on the ground, just 13 percent of his 56 (!) doubles and triples were hit on the ground. As the link to his HitTracker chart shows, his power is exclusively to left field where he can belt flies and line drives off the monster like nobody’s business. In 2009, expect a few more to make it over the fence.

Contact

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| 2006 |  22 | Red Sox |  89 | 0.191 | 0.281 |  92 | 0.188 |  0.275 |  22 |     41 |      27 |
| 2007 |  23 | Red Sox | 520 | 0.317 | 0.321 |  92 | 0.334 |  0.323 |  18 |     60 |      32 |
| 2008 |  24 | Red Sox | 653 | 0.326 | 0.325 |  92 | 0.336 |  0.329 |  21 |     35 |      30 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+

Pedroia’s batting average is about as legit as they come. He has posted a 92 percent contact rate and a BABIP above .330 in each of the past two seasons.

Looking at his plate discipline stats, he has tremendous Judgment (121), Bat Control (96), and Bad Ball Hitting (83), all of which have been consistent over the past two years. It would take a drastic change in approach or skill for Pedroia’s contact rate to take a noticeable hit, which is very unlikely at this point in his career. He also hits a good amount of line drives, and his BABIP success over the past two seasons means his Marcels BABIP is right in line with his actual BABIPs.

I have no statistics to back this up, so please take it for what it’s worth, but it makes logical sense to me that Pedroia’s BABIP will be a little less prone to negative random fluctuations than would most other players’. Because he has the privilege of working with the Green Monster, he has quite a few guaranteed doubles off the big guy. He hit 28 of his 35 Fenway doubles to left field last year, and I think hitting balls at the Monster makes his BABIP a little more stable than players who have to hit all of their balls at fielders.

Overall, we should continue to expect Pedroia to hit over .320, maybe even making it to .330.

Speed

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | SB | SBA | SBO%  | SBA% | SB% | FAN SPEED | FAN BALLOTS |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
| 2006 |  22 | Red Sox |  89 |  0 |   1 | 0.194 |    5 |   0 |        -- |           0 |
| 2007 |  23 | Red Sox | 520 |  7 |   8 | 0.293 |    5 |  87 |        44 |         277 |
| 2008 |  24 | Red Sox | 653 | 20 |  21 | 0.270 |   11 |  95 |        49 |         131 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+

While Tango’s Fan Scouting Report shows that Pedroia’s speed really isn’t anything special, he seems particularly adept at stealing bases, getting caught just once all year. Instincts would be my best guess, although I don’t have any stats to quantify that right now (I’m hoping to work with some baserunning numbers later in the off-season, so hopefully they will be able to shed some light on situations like Pedroia’s).

While Pedroia only attempted a steal in 5 percent of his opportunities in 2007, that number jumped to 11 percent in 2008. I’m not sure if it will stay that high, but given the fact that he’s been caught just three times in his pro career, the Red Sox would be smart to let him continue running at that rate if they think he truly is a 90 percent base-stealer (or even a 75 percent or so base-stealer).

I believe Pedroia’s modest speed will limit his stolen base upside, but another 20 steals really wouldn’t surprise me in 2009. Of course, he’s only done it once, so 10 steals really wouldn’t surprise me either (though it would surprise me more than 20).

Concluding thoughts

As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, I’m pretty high on Pedroia. His batting average is good and should remain so, his power is solid and will probably improve, and while it’s the biggest risk of the three, he should still provide positive value with his speed. He should continue batting second for the Sox and scoring tons of runs. Plus, he hit a quiet 83 RBIs this past year, and with the expected power increase, 90+ RBIs really isn’t out of the question.

Some analysts will say that taking Pedroia in the second round of a traditional 12-team mixed league is risky. Personally, I think he makes a very good pick in the late second round and is one of the least risky picks since he’ll be surrounded by the likes of B.J. Upton, Carlos Quentin, Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler, and Tim Lincecum. We’ll have to see where his market value ultimately ends up, but any later than round two looks like a steal.

If this were a “Smoke and mirrors” article, the verdict would have to be a resounding no.

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