Remember the beginning of the season when Dustin Pedroia was the only productive Red Sox hitter?
After a 9-for-13 series against the New York Yankees in early April, he was hitting .400.
Since then, Pedroia is hitting just .177 with more strikeouts (20) than hits (17). Even with a current three-game hit streak, he’s hitting just .237 for the season.
So what’s going wrong? Let’s look at some notable areas of concern.
1. The Strikeout Problem. Pedroia already has 26 strikeouts, putting him on pace for 123 this season. Consider that Pedroia’s career-high for strikeouts in a season is just 52. At this rate, he’ll bypass that before the All-Star break.
Since 2006, Pedroia had fanned once every 13.4 plate appearances, making him the MLB’s sixth-toughest hitter to strike out in that span. But this season, it’s happening once every 6.0 plate appearances. The low point came last Wednesday against the Angels, when Pedroia went hitless in six at-bats with a career-high four strikeouts. (A quick aside: David Ortiz, who had 145 K's in 2010, is 10th on the team with 16 strikeouts this season).
Pedroia is swinging and missing at a much higher rate this season, an issue that’s clearly connected to more strikeouts.
In his first four full seasons in the majors, Pedroia had an 8.6 miss percentage on his swings, the seventh lowest in the majors over that span. This season, that has skyrocketed to 20.7 percent, second highest on the Red Sox.
Pedroia has traditionally been one of the best hitters in the majors with two strikes. His .258 BA with two strikes entering 2010 ranked fifth among active players. However, the spike in strikeouts has led to a .178 average with two strikes this season.
2. Where have all the doubles gone? When Pedroia doubled in the 10th inning on Monday, it marked his first extra-base hit since a home run on April 15.
He went 87 at-bats without an extra-base hit, the longest drought of his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the fourth-longest such streak in the majors at the time, behind only James Loney, Jason Repko and Reid Brignac. Not exactly the company that Pedroia normally keeps.
At this point last season, he had 18 extra-base hits (11 doubles, seven home runs). This season, it’s just seven (five doubles, two home runs), and three of those came in one game against the Yankees.
The numbers are most glaring on the road, where Pedroia is still without an extra-base hit this season.
3. Fastballs and inside pitches. Pedroia’s typically high contact rate and ability to hit fastballs make him an ideal No. 2 hitter. However, he hasn’t feasted on fastballs in 2011.
Pedroia is hitting just .239 on fastballs and cutters, down from .320 in 2010 and .310 in 2009.
However, the biggest discrepancy can be found on inside pitches. Before his injury last season, Pedroia was hitting .359 on at-bats ending on an inside pitch.
In 2011, that has plummeted to a .159 batting average. He already has more strikeouts on inside pitches (10) than he had in all of 2010 (7).
So how about inside fastballs? The difference there is massive. In 2010, Pedroia hit .478 (22-for-46) on at-bats ending on an inside fastball. This season, he is just 6-for-31 (.194).
Jeremy Lundblad is a researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He provides statistical analysis for ESPNBoston.com.