Time to tackle this Dustin Pedroia thing head on. Over the past week, he has vaulted over Kevin Youkilis and into contention as the Red Sox’ likely best hope for an AL MVP award. His ascendance has been remarkable. He’s been raking most of the season, true, but he’s been phenomenal arguably when the Red Sox have needed him most — beset by injuries and illness (and a certain trade) that have left them without their four most consistent producers from the first half.
I’m a "value" MVP voter (well, I’m not a voter at all, but you know what I mean). This may have been shaped by the super-close 1995 race, when Albert Belle had far superior numbers to Mo Vaughn, but there was no doubt in my 12-year-old mind that Vaughn deserved the MVP (Vaughn put up the bulk of his numbers when the Red Sox were still in a close race with the Yankees; Belle hit 31 of his home runs in August and September, well after the 100-win Indians had wrapped up the division). So if the Yankees miss the playoffs, I’m not inclined to choose A-Rod, despite the fact that he’s easily the best player in the AL again. You better have an otherworldly season to win the MVP if you’re not playing for at least a winning team, in my book. But I understand why others choose differently.
That said, a vote for Pedroia is clearly a value vote; he’s not provided as much production for the Red Sox as Kevin Youkilis or J.D. Drew, and my initial hunch is that Drew’s June — stepping up immediately after the injury to David Ortiz — remains the most valuable contribution any member of the Red Sox has provided this season. I say all this to reinforce the fact that I don’t consider myself a Pedroia fanboy. I love the kid — love his attitude and his playing style, pretty much all the same things everyone else loves him for — but I look askance when sportswriters suddenly fixate on one particular player.
Of course, there’s a lot to love about Pedroia, and one could argue that his hot streak comes at a time when the games are simply more important by virtue of their increasing scarcity. And Pedroia has been scorching. Check this out:
- Last 7 games (hitting streak): .600/.629/.900, 2 HR, 3 2B, 11 RBI, 5 multihit games
- Last 19 games (on-base streak): .429/.474/.762, 6 HR, 8 2B, 22 RBI, 9 multihit games, including six ames with three or more hits.
- Last month: .390/.439/.678, 7 HR, 11 2B, 27 RBI
- Since June 13 (season-low BA of .260): .396/.436/.621, 12 HR, 26 2B, 46 RBI
This last line is remarkable. That’s in 322 plate appearances over 67 games. A little less than half a season. Combine that with Pedroia’s line before his monthlong slump from mid-May to mid-June (.307/.345/.411 in 46 games), he’s got 532 plate appearances with a line of .361/.431/.538. That .968 OPS is quite impressive for five months of baseball.
If Pedroia keeps up his August pace through September (so far, so good two games in), he’ll end up with more than 20 home runs, more than 20 stolen bases, just around 100 RBI and a batting line approximating .340/.380/.530. If he can do that, he will be the only second baseman ever to reach that combination of those levels (home runs, RBI, stolen bases, batting average) in a season, and only the fourth to post those home run, RBI and stolen base totals while compiling an OPS over .900 (Roberto Alomar twice, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan the others).
If he can do that — a big if — I could see him easily winning the MVP. As it is, I’m not sure he’s even yet the most valuable member of the Red Sox.