Dustin Pedroia’s Place in History

Instinctively, I feel Dustin Pedroia just completed one of the great seasons in Red Sox history. He won the MVP, of course, led the league in hits and runs, finished second in batting, crushed a whopping 54 doubles and posted a staggering number of extra-base hits and times on base, particularly given his light-hitting position of second base.

While the season was still ongoing, I thought we might be seeing the best season by a Red Sox second baseman ever. In the cool light of December, I'm not so sure.

My goal is to rank Pedroia in with the rest of the Top 50 seasons, assuming he belongs there. The only season by a second baseman currently represented is Bobby Doerr's 1944, in which he posted a 165 OPS+. Since then, no Red Sox second baseman has even topped 135. I'm inclined to discount that season a bit because of the inferior wartime competition, but it's worth noting Pedroia's OPS+ this year was just 123. Now, OPS+ isn't everything, but it was a general tool I used for ranking the Top 50, and even accounting for the war, that's a huge gap. Pedroia actually ends up sixth on the list of Sox second basemen in OPS+ since Doerr's big season. Doerr holds three of those spots, Mike Andrews holds one and John Valentin holds the fifth.

Did Dustin Pedroia have a better season in 2008 than Valentin in 1997 or Mike Andrews in 1969? I think so. But does that still qualify him for ranking in the Top 50, where the bottom two offensive season were Wade Boggs in 1988 and David Ortiz in 2007 (which is almost certainly too low)?

How about you decide. Below is the list of the Top 50, as I ranked them last offseason. I'm interested not only in where Pedroia fits on that list — if he fits at all — but if there are any other changes you would make.

  1. Pedro Martinez, 2000
  2. Ted Williams, 1941
  3. Pedro Martinez, 1999
  4. Carl Yastrzemski, 1967
  5. Cy Young, 1901
  6. Roger Clemens, 1980
  7. Ted Williams, 1957
  8. Pedro Martinez, 2002
  9. Babe Ruth, 1918
  10. Ted Williams, 1946
  11. Joe Wood, 1912
  12. Roger Clemens, 1986
  13. Jimmie Foxx, 1938
  14. Babe Ruth, 1919
  15. Tris Speaker, 1912
  16. Ted Williams, 1942
  17. Dutch Leonard, 1914
  18. Dick Radatz, 1963
  19. Pedro Martinez, 2003
  20. Ted Williams, 1947-49
  21. Ellis Kinder, 1953
  22. Jimmie Foxx, 1939
  23. Cy Young, 1908
  24. Carl Yastrzemski, 1970
  25. Lefty Grove, 1936
  26. Manny Ramirez, 2002
  27. Fred Lynn, 1975
  28. Wade Boggs, 1987
  29. Derek Lowe, 2002
  30. David Ortiz, 2006
  31. Carlton Fisk, 1972
  32. Jonathan Papelbon, 2007
  33. Jim Lonborg, 1967
  34. Keith Foulke, 2004
  35. Ted Williams, 1939-40, 51, 56, 58
  36. Bobby Doerr, 1944
  37. Rico Petrocelli, 1969
  38. Fred Lynn, 1979
  39. Jim Rice, 1978
  40. Lefty Grove, 1935
  41. Roger Clemens, 1992
  42. Dwight Evans, 1981
  43. Lefty Grove, 1939
  44. David Ortiz, 2007
  45. Pedro Martinez, 1998
  46. Wade Boggs, 1988
  47. Roger Clemens, 1991
  48. Ernie Shore, 1915
  49. Cy Young, 1903
  50. Derek Lowe, 2000

15 comments… add one

  • I think Pedroia’s season was indeed better than Valentin in ’97. I know we all take jabs at the intangible parts of any player’s game, thank in part to the Red Sox not really having a person with such qualities in recent memory, until Pedroia.
    He made the entire team better. He spent time at nearly every single spot in the batting order, and he produced at each of them. He had to be tied up to the bench to get him out of the game, and even then, somehow worked his way in towards the end of the game.
    I loved the Valentin season, but I think Pedroia’s was better in many ways that don’t just show up on the stat sheet.
    And, I know there is no stat for it, but I can’t count how many lasers I saw the guy hit right at hitters. He NEVER strikes out it seems. He makes contact an absurd amount of the time, and puts the ball in play at a rate that’s just silly.
    If nothing else, I have to vote for him just for what he said when interviewed on EEI the day he won the MVP – “it’s about time they got it right..I shoud’ve been the MVP last year too”.
    hahahaha.

    Brad December 3, 2008, 11:16 am
  • With Mo Vaughn not represented on this list at all, I refuse to acknowledge it as something worth commenting on, let alone rearranging. He had a 4-year run from 1995-1998 where the weakest of his seasons was the MVP year. Just pick one.

    Hit Dog December 3, 2008, 12:18 pm
  • Looking solely at statistics, I wouldn’t put Pedroia on the list. But after watching the 2008 season, and seeing how Pedroia’s gameplay and attitude made his teammates better, I think he belongs somewhere between 45-50. I usually hate the “intangibles” quality people talk about, but Pedroia’s attitude was contagious and it really carried the team all season.
    As far as other changes go, I’m not sure Keith Foulke’s 2004 should be on there, aside from his postseason performance. Also I think I would put Papelbon’s 2006 season on there instead of his 2007; a lot of people dismiss his 2006 because he missed all of September, but I still think it was a better year overall.
    But anyways, your list is amazing. I think I said it back in March when you released it, but throw in a picture for each one and you could turn this into a 150+ page book. Hell, I’ll buy it if it gets published!

    Atheose December 3, 2008, 12:26 pm
  • Hit Dog, Paul mentioned that he used OPS+ and ERA+ to choose the list. In Mo’s best year he OPS+’ed 153, which is well short of everyone else on the list–Wade Boggs is the last hitter on the list at #46, and he OPS+’ed 166. Just because you disagree on one omission doesn’t mean you should refuse to acknowledge the list entirely!
    Speaking of Boggs, I would have put his 1987 year on there instead of 1988.

    Atheose December 3, 2008, 12:34 pm
  • We all know you love Mo Vaughn, HD, but I challenge you to name the season you’d replace with one of Vaughn’s, while accounting for era and position.
    Remember this is the Top 50 seasons in Red Sox history, which incorporates 681 seasons on offense alone (qualifying for batting title) and another 381 on starting pitching (qualifying for ERA title) and likely another hundred or more in relief. So we’re discussing the top 4 percent of all the seasons anyone has ever had in a Red Sox uniform. Fit Vaughn in, if you can; I’d be happy to put him on the list.

    Paul SF December 3, 2008, 12:41 pm
  • Pedroia signed long term – 6/40Million.
    That’s awesome.
    Good move there.

    Brad December 3, 2008, 12:42 pm
  • man. That’s a good freaking deal for Boston. Way to go, Theo!

    Brad December 3, 2008, 12:45 pm
  • Boggs’ 1987 is ranked No. 28.
    I used OPS+ and ERA+ to roughly order the hitters and pitchers, but I also looked at where the performances ranked relative to position — if you’re the best ever at second base or shortstop, then you get a bump — and at postseason performance (which explains the Foulke and Papelbon placement) and historical context (Cy Young in 1901 and Yaz in 1967 got boosts for their roles in establishing and saving the franchise).

    Paul SF December 3, 2008, 12:46 pm
  • Did I mention that Pedroia just signed long term?

    Brad December 3, 2008, 1:12 pm
  • Paul, why the bleep do you do this stuff when I’m at work?
    The Red Sox just stole Dustin Pedroia’s balls with that contract. That’s a hell of a deal.

    I'm Bill McNeal December 3, 2008, 2:36 pm
  • Just posted a new post on the contract, so we can keep discussion here focused on the list. :-)

    Paul SF December 3, 2008, 2:59 pm
  • > Pedroia’s season was indeed better than Valentin in ’97.
    I think Nomar’s 1997 season warrants consideration when focusing on that window. Valentin was an amazingly versatile fielder at that point, wasn’t he?
    > I know we all take jabs at the intangible parts of any player’s game, thank in part to the Red Sox not really having a person with such qualities in recent memory, until Pedroia.
    Not sure what you meant by “recent.” Schilling? Ortiz? Damon?
    > He made the entire team better.
    I agree, that’s what above replacement-level players do.
    > He spent time at nearly every single spot in the batting order
    I wasn’t sure about this one, had to check… he only batted in 1-4 slots as a starter. He was fantastic where he spent most of his time (2) and ridonculous the few times he was called upon to clean up.
    > He had to be tied up to the bench to get him out of the game
    I enjoy that image for some peculiar reason. Anyway, I get your point.
    > I loved the Valentin season, but I think Pedroia’s was better in many ways that don’t just show up on the stat sheet.
    I don’t recall well enough here, but it looks like some significant differences do show up to show Pedroia’s season being better in comparison.
    > And, I know there is no stat for it, but I can’t count how many lasers I saw the guy hit right at hitters.
    I know you meant “fielders.” BABIP helps.
    > He NEVER strikes out it seems. He makes contact an absurd amount of the time, and puts the ball in play at a rate that’s just silly.
    He certainly struck out significantly less than the average hitter: 52 vs. 87. Valentin didn’t strike out a lot either.
    > If nothing else, I have to vote for him just for what he said when interviewed on EEI the day he won the MVP – “it’s about time they got it right..I shoud’ve been the MVP last year too”.
    hahahaha.
    Agreed, that is funny.

    attackgerbil December 3, 2008, 3:35 pm
  • AG mentions Nomar, who because of his position was much closer to making this list than Vaughn.
    Nomar hit above .370 one season and set the shortstop record for doubles in a season in another. That he’s not on the list I think is a testament to the quality of the seasons that are on the list — and probably a reason to expand it to at least 75 spots, were I ever to get the time again…

    Paul SF December 3, 2008, 4:17 pm
  • The more I think about it, the more I think Pedroia did not have as good a season as two of Garciaparra’s years, and probably not as good, even accounting for position, as Mo Vaughn’s MVP year of 1995 — in which Vaughn played like a maniac during the July/August stretch in which the Sox put away the Yanks — never mind Vaughn’s excellent 1998. I’m not inclined to give intangibles so much weight as to leapfrog four seasons like that, though my mind remains open.

    Paul SF December 4, 2008, 2:28 am
  • Well, at least I got the dialogue placed in the desired direction.
    /fights off boyhood tears.
    Derek Lowe’s 2000 was great, but not magical, and closers have greater standards to get on a list like this, I figure. But one of Nomar’s years would likely, due to position, end up in front. This franchise has had some great performers.
    /fights off urge to note that Mo Vaughn had 11 stolen bases in 1995. He was once an athlete!
    Excellent list. And Pedroia had an excellent season, but we can’t help but recognize it was an MVP year in a year low on candidates. If the Heymans of the world had more ballots, we coulda ended up with F-Raud taking it, for that matter.

    Hit Dog December 4, 2008, 4:15 pm

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