Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tickets Available for the Laser Show

The Red Sox offense has been clicking on all cylinders for some time now. It seems everybody is hitting, and there are not many holes in the lineup. One perceived weakness of the team has been that they are too left handed. However, in large part because of a surging Dustin Pedroia, the Sox are still getting good production from the right side of the plate.

On June 1st, Pedroia was showing little to no production at the plate, hitting just .240 with four home runs. The man Boston had been accustomed to setting the plate for the Red Sox offense was looking lost at the plate at times, and fans were beginning to wonder if he would reach his level of production we are used to seeing.

Fast forward to July 21st, and there is an entirely different story. Pedroia has been fantastic since the start of June, and has been carrying the team in some stretches. Since June 1st, Pedroia has had a ridiculous triple slash line of .360/.467/.628. In case adding is not your specialty, that puts him at a 1.095 OPS, to go along with his nine homers in the month and a half surge. One reason for this sudden surge in his numbers is that Pedroia is putting the ball in play a lot more than he was early in the year. In the first two months of 2011, he struck out 37 times, and in 15% of his plate appearances. However, since that time, he has only gone down by the way of the K (Thanks Don Orsillo, this phrase is my favorite of your contributions to my world), 13 times, just 6.7% of his plate appearances.

That is a huge improvement by putting the ball in play. As he continues to put the ball in play, he is reaping the benefits of some good luck, posting a BABIP of around .350 in the last month and a half. However, if you look at his splits for the first two months of the year, he was suffering a BABIP of around .270. For the entire season, his BABIP is standing at .309, just one point lower than his career number of .310. So while he has been a bit lucky during this stretch, it has evened out with what he was doing in the first couple of months. That, folks, is the magic of BABIP, and regression or progression to the mean.

The first half of July has been especially impressive for Pedroia. He has a stupid OPS of 1.184*, to go along with six homers and a .386 batting average. His power has been something special all month, as he is currently sitting with a .343 ISO. Surely this power number will not stand, but it has been big as the Red Sox are lacking a big stick from the right side. What's been even more impressive about this stretch is that Pedroia is doing it just as well with the glove. According to Fan Graphs, Pedroia has a UZR of 11.2, by far a career high. This number puts Pedroia fourth in all of baseball this year on defense, and first amongst second baseman.

The only thing I would change about Pedroia's last two months would be this new "Muddy Chicken" nickname. It is an abomination of nicknames, and I expect much better of him.

*Small Rant: This is only 27 points higher than Jose Bautista's OPS for the entire season. I know Adrian Gonzalez is having a fantastic season, and we all love him, but Bautista is having a special year, and he is this year's AL MVP unless there is some sort of drastic regression by him.

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