Sunday, November 11, 2007

Five Reasons Why Dustin Pedroia Should Be Rookie Of The Year

Last week, Jordi from The Serious Tip issued a challenge to yours truly: name five reasons why Dustin Pedroia deserves to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award, which will be issued early this week. And so I will.

Jordi is a Florida resident who follows the Devil Rays (I need time to adjust to the new nickname), so he gave five reasons in favor of Delmon Young over at his place. Not included on his list: Young made it through the entire season without tossing a bat at any on-field personnel. That has to count for something, right?

5. My Wife Says "Dusty" Deserves To Win: One thing I've learned over the years is that you never argue with the Missus. It's not the most logical argument, and it doesn't really rely on any useful information whatsoever, but that's beside the point. If Mrs. OMDQ said it, it must be true.

4. Toughness: When I worked for the Nashua Pride in 2003, we acquired a player named Raul Rodarte from the Mexican League for the stretch run. Raul wasn't exceptionally strong, but he could hit like nobody's business, and after five games was batting something like .417. Then he broke the hamate bone in his right hand and missed the rest of the year.

Guess what news came out in the last few days? Pedroia broke the hamate bone in one of his hands - in early September. He played at least the final month of the regular season and all of the playoffs - posting a .345 average in the ALCS and homering to lead off the World Series, mind you - with a bone that was shattered so badly, it crumbled when the doctor removed it. Crumbled. Talk about exceptional toughness and devotion to the team.

3. Alright - To The Stats!: Pedroia's rough September in 2006 and difficult start in 2007 have been well-documented. He stunk pretty badly for the first two months of his major league career - which makes it all the more remarkable that he finished the season with a .317 batting average, eight homeruns and 50 runs batted in.

The most important Pedroia stat, in my opinion, is 12.4-1: his at-bats per strikeout, the second-best number in the American League. The infrequency with which Pedroia struck out was completely at odds with his big swing (ever want to see the definition of "swinging from the heels"? Watch Dustin Pedroia take a few hacks) and allowed Terry Francona to pair him with the selective Kevin Youkilis at the top of the lineup.

2. D-Fence!: The defining moment of the Red Sox 2007 season may well have come on September 1, when Pedroia made a diving stop and throw late in the game to preserve Clay Buchholz's no-hitter. He got the runner by a step and very clearly shouted "Fuck yeah!" as millions of New Englanders developed a new appreciation for his intensity.

Most of Pedroia's defensive numbers are unremarkable, but two things stand out: fielding percentage (.990, T-5th) and zone rating (.833, 6th). This indicates that while Pedroia doesn't handle a lot of chances in the field or turn a lot of double plays, he is very good at making the plays on the balls one would typically expect him to reach. And if there's one thing you can't overstate, it's the importance of solid up-the-middle defense.

1. This One's For David: David Eckstein, the Chief Lord King of the Major League Baseball Gritty Little People, never won the Rookie of the Year Award, finishing fourth in 2001 behind a number of players who had seasons that were arguably better. As the best rookie member of the MLBGLP Club since Eckstein, this is the best chance for the voters to right that wrong and give the award to the new leader of the diminutive ones: Dustin Pedroia, who is listed at 5'9" but probably stands no taller than 5'6 3/4".