Dustin Pedroia is still the beating heart of this Red Sox team. Sure, Mookie Betts is now the defining star, and David Ortiz will always be the ultimate hero. But nobody embodies the spirit and fight of Boston baseball quite like the scrappy second baseman. And with just under three weeks remaining, Pedey has a legitimate shot at becoming the American League batting champion, a fitting tribute to his remarkable resurgence.
Nowadays, batting average is sneered at. Led by statisticians, many people consider it an inferior metric for gauging performance. It’s too one-dimensional, they say. It only takes into account one skill, rather than four or five. In this age of Statcast, where every aspect of baseball is calculated and scrutinized, I understand the concern. Yet batting average remains one of the most instantly recognizable measurements of talent, if not the most accurate.
We’re all supposed to worship at the altar of Wins Above Replacement, but few casual fans even know how it’s calculated. WAR offers no concise moment of greatness, such as when a hitter slugs his 500th career home run or notches his 3,000th hit. So, to me, batting average and other traditional numbers still have a pretty special place in the game, even if their utility has been surpassed by newer, sexier metrics.
The Resurgence of Dustin Pedroia
Therefore, what Dustin Pedroia is doing fascinates me. At 33, the ultimate grinder is having one of his best ever seasons. Pedroia has a .332/.391/.465 slash line with 13 home runs, 34 doubles and 66 RBI. Judging by OPS, a catch-all stat for offensive performance, this is his best campaign since 2011. In terms of WAR, it’s already his best since 2013, with eighteen games remaining. When all is said and done, Dustin Pedroia may not receive MVP consideration, but his importance to the Red Sox cannot be overstated.
Numbers simply don’t do the guy justice. However, one number, that .332 batting average, is particularly intriguing. Right now, only Jose Altuve, the Houston Astros’ hitting machine, has a higher average in the American League. Altuve presently sits at .340, making for a tight race and interesting subplot in the final weeks of an enthralling season.
In Pursuit of History
Bill Mueller was the last Red Sox player to win a batting title. The third baseman did so with a .326 mark in 2003. It may be difficult for Dustin Pedroia to haul back an eight-point disadvantage this late in the season and follow in Mueller’s footsteps, but stranger things have happened. All it takes is for one hot streak to coincide with a rare skid for Altuve, and one of the greatest players in Red Sox history would add another historic achievement to his resume.
While the batting title may have lost some of its prestige, there’s still a certain charm to its history. It’s one of the oldest awards in the game, one that Ty Cobb lusted after so violently in a different age. For that reason, that sense of tradition, we should root for Dustin Pedroia to win the batting crown. I can hardly think of a more deserving recipient.