2014 Fantasy Baseball: Pedroia’s Alarming Lack of Power
Slow starts are a part of the game. We usually spend all of April worried about a few guys. Is the poor start a sign of things to come? Is it bad luck? Maybe it’s a combination? So far this April, people have worried about: Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Heyward, Miguel Cabrera (to some extent), and many others. Long story short, those three guys will likely be fine. Both Encarnacion and Cabrera are playing their first games after having offseason surgery and seem to finding their respective strides. Heyward has had a little bad luck, but he’s also seen his strikeout rate creep back up. Like Encarnacion and Cabrera, though, he’s swinging his way out of it at the moment.
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One guy I’m worried about – even with small sample size caveats – is Dustin Pedroia. I’ll admit that I hadn’t really paid much attention to anything he had done this season before Bryce Harper got hurt. As soon as Harper hurt his thumb, I immediately remembered Pedroia playing through a similar injury last season. He gutted it out, and put up a five win season, but his fantasy value wasn’t quite as high. His modest power was sapped to even lower levels, and he hit his fewest total of home runs since 2007. Many of us – myself included – assumed his power would rebound to his previous levels. So far that hasn’t been the case. Since the beginning of last season, Pedroia has slashed the following: .297/.365/.406. In that time frame – 844 plate appearances – he has 9 home runs and a .109 ISO.
Pedroia’s batted ball profile has had some rather dramatic changes over the past two years. In 2013, he began hitting more groundballs. Most assumed it was because he realized his power wasn’t quite as strong as it used to be. But in 2014, he’s hit even more groundballs than he did last year.
It’s quite an alarming trend because if you’re only getting 8-10 home runs – and given the lack of flyballs it’s hard to hope for more – out of Pedroia, his value isn’t nearly what it used to be. Especially considering his speed will only decline further each year assuming he follows normal aging trends.
On top of his batted ball profile changing, Pedroia’s batted ball distance has fallen off a great deal. Here are his numbers starting in 2010: 288 ft, 280, 271, 262, 285. Whoa, wait a second. After years of decline, Pedroia’s batted ball distance has seemingly rebounded. I’m not sure what to make of that. There have only been 16 hits recorded that affect the numbers, so it’s a small sample, but perhaps it means something. I’m still putting more stock in his overall declining trend given what we know about aging curves, but we’ll see if the number holds up.
Yesterday, Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece about how much damage Anthony Rendon has done versus fastballs. Coincidentally, I had been looking into Rendon, but I also noticed Pedroia’s name right near Rendon’s on number of fastball seen. Pedroia has seen 283 pitches that have been classified as either a two-seam or four-seam fastball; 55.7% of the pitches he’s seen. Unfortunately, Pedroia hasn’t punished those pitches quite as much as we’re used to seeing over the past two seasons.
|2010 – 2012||0.330||0.556||0.226|
|2013 – 2014||0.301||0.417||0.116|
Pedroia’s numbers on pitches classified as “hard” by Brooks Baseball have dropped off in both average and power, but more so in the power department. Opposing pitchers have seemingly recognized this change, and have begun pounding him with more “hard” pitches than he’s ever seen.
Until he gives pitchers a reason to stop busting him with fastballs, I expect the trend to continue.
Pedroia will always be a rather stable fantasy option given his ability to get on base, and the fact that he’ll always have opportunities to drive in runs thanks to his spot in Boston’s lineup. But his days of being an elite fantasy option may be ending, if they already haven’t. Ten home runs and fifteen steals is solid, but it’s not what many of us are looking for out of Pedroia given his price tag. Hopefully his power rebounds going forward – and it might, because he could still be actually getting over the injury/surgery, finding his old swing, etc. – but Pedroia may just be better in real life than he is fantasy. That’s not exactly a bad thing, given he’s paid for his all around contribution, but it sure stings on our end of the spectrum.