Here are the All-Star break statistics for two players who play the same position on playoff contenders:
Player A: .296, 15 HR, 57 RBI, 87 games
Player B: .284, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 87 games
Which guy is having the better season? What if I told you Player A won the fan vote for his position, started the All-Star Game and won the Home Run Derby. Player B, meanwhile, didn’t make the All-Star team or even get listed as one of the five finalists in his league for the final player vote.
So who is having the better season? The answer, of course, is player B -- Dustin Pedroia. He’s having an MVP-caliber season that is not only more impressive than Robinson Cano's, but is flying under the recognition radar, which is pretty amazing for a former MVP who plays for the Red Sox.
First off, let’s compare the offensive totals of Pedroia and Cano.
409 PAs, .284/.395/.442, 19 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 59 R, 63 BB, 49 SO
That translates to 66 runs created. Pedroia has used up 257 outs, so he’s created about 6.9 runs for every 27 outs.
368 PAs, .296/.342/.521, 21 2B, 5 3B, 15 HR, 57 RBI, 57 R, 17 BB, 46 SO
That translates to 57 runs created. Cano has used up 256 outs, so he’s created about 6.9 runs for every 27 outs.
The main difference between the two is Pedroia’s advantage in walks -- 63 to 17. That’s 46 more times he’s been on base than Cano. So while Cano has more power, Pedroia’s 57-point advantage in on-base percentage means he’s used up fewer outs to produce his runs. He’s been the better offensive player.
When you add in defense, the split gets even larger. Cano won a Gold Glove last year. And while he was decent last season, if not really Gold Glove-worthy, his defensive numbers are mediocre this year. Pedroia, meanwhile, has been outstanding. Baseball Info Solutions rates Pedroia as having saved eight runs compared to the average second baseman, while Cano rates as minus-3. Ultimate Zone Rating has an even larger difference, with Pedroia at plus-10 and Cano at minus-5.
It all adds up to Pedroia being one of the best players in the American League. Here are the WAR (wins above a replacement level player) leaders for the AL from FanGraphs:
Jose Bautista, 6.6
Adrian Gonzalez, 4.8
Jacoby Ellsbury, 4.8
Curtis Granderson, 4.7
Cano is down the list at 2.9.
The most interesting thing about Pedroia’s season is his walk rate. With 63 walks, he’s on pace for 113. His previous career high is 74. He’s also striking out more, but that’s mostly due to his trouble making contact early in the season, as he fanned 17 times in April and 20 times in May. ESPN Stats & Information reports that he was having trouble catching up to fastballs early in the season, hitting just .280 against them in 100 at-bats through the first two months. He’s hit .429 against fastballs since, and in 34 games since June 1, he’s drawn 28 walks against just 12 strikeouts while hitting .351 with a 1.072 OPS.
What’s amazing about the walks, of course, is who follows Pedroia in the lineup: Gonzalez. So much for the old theory about "protection" -- Pedroia is third in the AL in walks drawn. While Gonzalez has been amazingly productive, a key to his success has been the ability of Ellsbury and Pedroia getting on base in front of him; only Ryan Howard has come to the plate with more runners on base this season than Gonzalez. Unlike his days with the Padres, when Gonzalez had a weaker supporting cast, pitchers can’t just walk him if runners are already on.
For all the attention Gonzalez has been getting, Pedroia (and Ellsbury) has posted similar value to the Red Sox. Gonzalez’s glossy RBI total may be more eye-catching, but Pedroia is producing big numbers at a position where a lot of teams don’t receive much offense.
The MVP race seems to be a two-man ballot between Gonzalez and Bautista, but I would argue that Pedroia deserves to be in the discussion, especially if he hits in the second half close to the way he has the past 30 games or so.
Not bad for a guy who watched the All-Star Game on television.