For Red Sox to Have Any Chance, Dustin Pedroia Needs to Step It Up

Stephen SikoraContributor IJuly 30, 2012

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox follows through on a hit during the fifth inning of the interleague game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park on June 24, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The No. 3 spot in any MLB lineup is most often given to the best hitter on the team. He’s guaranteed to bat in the first inning and will have two of the highest OBP guys in front of him.

That’s why Boston’s current No. 3 hitter batting .267/.323/.404 is unacceptable.

In an ideal world where lefty-lefty matchups didn’t matter, it would make the most sense to bat Jacoby Ellsbury third and Dustin Pedroia first. Last year, Ellsbury showed he had power with 32 home runs, while Pedroia has an edge in career OBP (.368 to .353).

But a lineup featuring the righty Pedroia, and then lefties Carl Crawford, Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, would not work.

In any other year, Pedroia batting third would be fine; from 2007 to 2011, he hit .309/.377/.469 and put up the fifth-highest WAR in the game.

Pedroia is not that player this year.

Maybe he’s in a slump, maybe his multiple thumb injuries have negatively effected him or maybe he just hasn’t gone on one of those Pedroia-like tears yet.

The fact of the matter is, through 84 games played this year, he’s on pace for 13 home runs and only 57 RBI, which would be his lowest full-season totals since his rookie year.

Advanced statistics point to Pedroia’s approach at the plate as the culprit of his diminished season.

He’s seen 3.95 pitches per plate appearance in 2012 compared to the 4.21 pitches he saw in 2011 and 4.33 in 2010. His walk rate this season is 7.1 percent, his lowest total since 2008 and much decreased from his career average of 9.2 percent.

Pedroia’s known for getting all he can out of his slight build, and he often ends up with a knee on the ground after swinging from his heels. Pitchers may have finally caught on to his method, as this year he’s seen more changeups than ever before: 11.3 percent, a big difference compared to 8.5 percent for his career.

After another hitless performance last night—one in which he left three runners on in his final two at-bats—it’s time to consider a change in the Sox's batting order. Cody Ross and Will Middlebrooks are both right-handers who are having better seasons than Pedroia at the dish.

Manager Bobby Valentine hasn’t been shy about tinkering with his lineup. If Pedroia doesn’t start hitting, he may just need to make one more change.