Dustin Pedroia’s injuries will lock him out of baseball’s Hall of Fame

After losing nearly all of the past three seasons to injury, Dustin Pedroia is reportedly considering retirement. The star was the heart and soul of the Red Sox for a decade, leading the franchise to two World Series titles and taking home the 2008 American League MVP trophy. Yet though Pedroia once seemed destined for Cooperstown, injuries have weakened his statistical resume and likely robbed him of Hall of Fame honors.

For most of his career Pedroia was among the league’s elite second basemen, challenged only by Robinson Cano and Chase Utley. Pedroia paired Gold Glove defense with elite bat-to-ball skills, and he took advantage of the Green Monster in Fenway Park to put up surprising power numbers despite his diminutive frame.

Source: FanGraphs
Pedroia’s pull power made him a perfect fit for Fenway, and his ability to spray hits to all fields allowed him to compile a .299 lifetime batting average.

By the end of his age-30 season Pedroia had compiled 41.9 career Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Playing nearly as well as he ever had, the Boston star seemed a lock to reach the 50 or 60 WAR threshold generally needed to merit serious Hall of Fame consideration. Boasting a strong non-statistical case that included four Gold Gloves, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP to go along with two championships with a marquis franchise, Pedroia likely just needed a few more productive years to cement his place in Cooperstown.

Alas, years of hard-nosed play began to take their toll. Pedroia missed half of 2015 with knee and hamstring injuries. Then, in April 2017, Orioles star Manny Machado spiked Pedroia while sliding into second base. Though the second baseman managed to play in 105 games that season, the injury lingered. Multiple knee surgeries failed to get Pedroia back on the field, limiting him to 9 games over the next three seasons. He now appears unlikely to ever play again.

Career arcs of recent elite 2B

Source: FanGraphsCraig Biggio, Chase Utley, Robinson Cano

As the above graph shows, the missed time sabotaged Pedroia’s career trajectory. Through age 30, the Boston star put up comparable numbers to recent Hall of Famers and the other elite second basemen of his era, but injuries knocked him well off the course in following years. While Cano, Utley, and Ian Kinsler generated an average of 11.4 WAR during their age-33 through 35 seasons, according to Fangraphs, Pedroia managed to produce only 1.4 WAR.

In an earlier era, Pedroia’s accomplishments might have been enough to earn him a plaque in Cooperstown, but voters have held second basemen to a stricter standard over the past half-century. According to JAWS, a metric that places equal weight on a player’s peak and total career performance, Pedroia would be the least-qualified second basemen admitted to the Hall since Nellie Fox, who retired in 1965.

In short, injuries and rising standards for second basemen have likely cost Pedroia baseball’s ultimate honor. Still, he remains a Boston sports icon. In an era when very few players spend their entire careers with one team, Pedroia has established himself as a central figure in Red Sox history.

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