Dustin Pedroia’s RBI double in the second inning didn’t just chase Freddy Garcia from the game on Tuesday. It also marked a rare moment of success against a right-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox second baseman.
After facing the New York Yankees in April, Pedroia was hitting .409 with an 1.140 OPS against righties. Since then, the numbers are hard on the eyes.
In 144 at-bats against RHP since April 11, Pedroia is hitting .174 with an MLB-worst .208 slugging percentage. Tuesday’s double was just his second off a righty in that span.
Overall, Pedroia is hitting .205 with a .575 OPS against right-handed pitchers. That puts him on a historically bad pace, not just for him, but in recent Red Sox history.
Since 1975, only one Red Sox hitter has posted a lower OPS vs. RHP over a full season. Tony Pena had a .566 OPS against righties in 1991, his second season in Boston. Beyond that, the only other player to post a sub-.600 OPS against righties in the last 35 years was Jerry Remy (.593 in 1983).
In other words, Pedroia’s performance against righties is reminiscent of an aging backstop or a light-hitting future broadcaster.
This is particularly eye-opening given that Pedroia entered the season with a higher career OPS against righties (.839) than lefties (.806). He hit over .300 against right-handed pitchers in each of the past four seasons. Last season, he hit 12 home runs in 230 at-bats against righties. So far in 2011? Just two in 166 at-bats.
So why is Pedroia struggling so much? He’s hitting .355 with a 1.003 OPS against lefties, so it’s really his work against right-handers keeping his season stuck in neutral.
One clear area of concern is inside pitches (strikes over the inner third of the plate and balls inside). Last season, Pedroia turned on these pitches for a .388 batting average and 10 home runs. This season, he’s hitting .155 with a mere .207 slugging percentage.
Pedroia has been nearly helpless against the slider from righties. On at-bats ending in a slider, he’s just 1-for-27 (.037). It was just two years ago when Pedroia hit .287 in that same situation.
There’s also the two-strike problem. Pedroia, notoriously a tough hitter to strikeout, has already fanned 30 times against a righty. That’s already exceeded last season’s total of 28, and is one fewer than the 31 he had in 453 at-bats in 2009.