Across the Seams: Is Dustin Pedroia a Hall of Famer?
Although he hasn’t made it official, all signs point to longtime Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia calling it a career. Persistent knee injuries have limited him to just nine games in the past two seasons, and the latest report makes it sound like he won’t be able to play again in 2019.
Pedroia, perhaps even more than gregarious slugger David Ortiz, truly personified the city of Boston and what it meant to be a member of the Red Sox. An MVP, a four-time All-Star, and a two-time World Series champion, Pedroia will hang up his cleats with an extremely impressive resume.
However, the question now is whether that resume will be enough to get him into Cooperstown. Let’s take a look.
Pros for Pedroia and the HOF
Pedroia has a lot of hardware. He won the MVP award in 2008, one year after winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. He was a four-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger winner, and of course a two-time World Series champion with the Red Sox in 2007 and again in 2013.
In addition to a full trophy shelf, Pedroia was truly a five-tool player—or at least as five-tool as you can be as a second baseman. He hit 140 home runs and swiped 138 bases in his career, averaging about 15 a season. He just missed hitting .300 for his career, and if you wipe out his nine games over the past two seasons, then he would have hit that benchmark. Plus, he was an outstanding fielder. Baseball Reference has him worth 15.3 dWAR for his career, which ranks 110th all-time and is sixth among active players, behind Andrelton Simmons, Yadier Molina, Ian Kinsler, Lorenzo Cain and Russell Martin.
Jay Jaffe’s wonderful metric JAWS uses a player’s WAR, seven-year peak WAR, and other metrics to spit out a number comparing Pedroia with his peers at second base. He currently ranks 19th among second basemen with a JAWS score of 47.1, which is ahead of nine(!) Hall of Famers at the keystone, including Nellie Fox, Bill Mazeroski and Bobby Doerr.
Second base is a woefully underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame, with only 11 players enshrined in Cooperstown. Pedroia may not be the 12th-best second baseman of all-time, but the position could use more representation and Pedroia’s gritty, hard-nosed style of play and five-tool talent would liven up the position in the museum.
Cons for Pedroia and the HOF
Pedroia probably needed a few more years to pad his stats in order to elicit real consideration for the Hall. As things stand right now, his 1,805 hits, 140 home runs, 138 stolen bases and 922 RBI just aren’t enough.
If he had elite rate stats, then the Hall of Fame could consider someone with his low counting stats, but his 113 OPS+ just isn’t going to get it done. In fact, his 113 OPS+ is tied with Derek Dietrich and falls below the marks posted by Ben Zobrist and Eric Chavez—neither of whom are going to hear their name called for Cooperstown.
Additionally, one big thing voters look for is whether the player was ever the best in the league, either overall or at least at his position. And while Pedroia was a four-time All-Star and won an MVP award, there’s a real argument that he was never even a top-three second baseman during his playing career, thanks to the excellence of Robinson Cano, Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler, who all played in the same era.
Pedroia’s 51.7 bWAR is solid, ranking 23rd all-time among second basemen, but it falls way short of the 69.4 average bWAR by HOF second baseman. We can all agree that the Hall has been way too hesitant with second baseman, but guys such as Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich and Jeff Kent, who all deserve enshrinement, all have higher WARs than Pedroia.
Baseball Reference uses other metrics outside of JAWS to evaluate a player’s HOF credentials. They use what is called Black Ink and Gray Ink, which measures how often a player finished first (black ink) or in the top-10 (gray ink) in hitting statistics. The average Hall of Famer has a black ink score of 27 and a gray ink score 144, whereas Pedroia has an 11 and a 70, less than half the average HOFer.
Additionally, Baseball Reference puts together a HOF Monitor and HOF Standards score. The average HOFer scores 100 and 50, respectively, while Pedroia falls short again at 94 and 32.
Pedroia was a beloved figure in Boston sports history and will remain a fan-favorite long after his career is over. Unfortunately, playing with so many other great second baseman dilutes his Hall of Fame case, and he needed a few more years of above-average performance to really gain momentum for a Hall of Fame case. As it stands—if this is the end for Pedey—he does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
I predict his popularity in a big market will garner him plenty of votes, but I have a hard time seeing him ever reach the 75% threshold necessary to get inducted, especially with players such as Whitaker, Grich and Kent still on the outside looking in. Perhaps the veterans committee, who allowed Harold Baines to get a plaque, will consider Pedroia in due time.
(Graphic provided by @freshmeatcomm on Twitter)