Dustin Pedroia will only be 41 years old when he makes his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot for the class of 2025.
Pedroia officially retired on Monday, closing the book on an unforgettable career for the Red Sox at just 37 years old. The injury to his left knee, the one that never healed properly despite every attempt to make it better, led to partial knee replacement surgery that was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic until December 2020. That shut the door, finally.
“It wasn’t physically possible for me to play with a partial knee replacement,” Pedroia said in a Zoom news conference Monday afternoon. “Once I got that done, I knew.”
Life after the surgery has been encouraging, though, as he looks at his future with his wife and three kids.
“I grinded every day just to be able to play with my kids, just to live a normal life,” he said. “My knee was bad, and I’m a young guy. In December, I had the surgery and a week later, I could tell that I could walk without pain. I could basically do everything but run. I can’t run anymore. Which is fine. I don’t need to run.”
With Pedroia finally among the ranks of former ballplayers, it’s only natural to try to put his career in perspective. And those retrospectives bring up an obvious question: Will Pedroia wind up in the Hall of Fame?
His Cooperstown resume is rather fascinating.
Let’s start here: The Hall of Fame plaque gallery includes 20 players who were primarily second basemen during their careers (Miller Huggins was a second baseman, too, but he was inducted as a manager). Of those 20 second-sackers, the average bWAR is 69.5, the average JAWS is 57.0 and the average bWAR7 (seven-year peak) is 44.4.
Pedroia checks in at 51.6 bWAR, 46.3 JAWS and 41.0 bWAR7.
Not surprisingly, Pedroia is closest to the average Hall of Famer in peak WAR. Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio were both elected in their second year on the BBWAA ballot, and their bWAR7 numbers are very similar: 42.9 and 41.8, respectively.
Pedroia’s back-of-the-baseball card counting statistics are a bit lacking, because injury issues limited him to basically only eight healthy seasons (defining that as years with more than 105 games played). Pedroia finished with 1,512 games; of those 20 Hall of Fame second basemen, only Jackie Robinson (1,382) played fewer games. Fourteen of the 20 players had more than 2,100 games.
Despite that, Pedroia’s 51.6 bWAR is better than six of the 20 already in Cooperstown: Bobby Doerr (51.1), Nellie Fox (49.5), Johnny Evers (47.7), Tony Lazzeri (47.3), Red Schoendienst (44.2) and Bill Mazeroski (36.5). And it’s worth noting that four players with incredible careers skew the numbers for the “average” Hall of Fame second baseman.
Rogers Hornsby checks in at 127.1, Eddie Collins is at 123.9, Nap Lajoie is at 107.3 and Joe Morgan’s at 100.5. Pedroia’s career wasn’t the equal of those four, of course. But that’s not really the question. The question is how Pedroia stacks up against ALL the Hall of Fame second basemen in Cooperstown.
It’s better than you might think, especially when viewed through the proper lens.
Pedroia made an instant impact on the big leagues, after a stellar career at Arizona State. He was the overwhelming choice for the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year; he hit .317 with a 3.9 bWAR in 139 games. In 2008, he won another award: the AL MVP. Pedroia led the league with a 6.9 bWAR, batting .326 with 118 runs, 213 hits, 17 homers, 20 stolen bases and 83 RBIs, and he won the Gold Glove, as well.
He was a four-time AL All-Star (2008-10, 2013) and a four-time Gold Glove winner (2008, 2011, 2013-14). In his final full year, at 32 years old, Pedroia hit .318 with 15 homers and an .825 OPS in 2016. Dealing with a painful knee injury in 2017 — Manny Machado over-slid second base and impacted Pedroia’s knee in April — he hit .293 in 105 games. He’d only play nine games total in 2018-19. He went 3-for-31 in those nine games, dropping his career average from .300 to .299.
During Pedroia’s years with Boston, the Red Sox were regular postseason participants. Pedroia hit .325 with a .422 on-base percentage in 20 ALCS games. His Red Sox made the World Series twice — they won both times — and he was in the middle of everything. In his very first World Series at-bat, Pedroia led off Game 1 of the 2007 Fall Classic with a solo home run off Rockies starter Jeff Francis to give the Sox a 1-0 lead. In Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, Pedroia went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
But, again, the injuries. Only 18 of the 162 position players in the Hall of Fame played fewer than Pedroia’s 1,512 games. Of those 18, only five were elected by the BBWAA, which is the tougher standard (even though all are treated equally in Cooperstown). Those five: Jackie Robinson, Hank Greenberg, Roy Campanella, Ralph Kiner and Mickey Cochrane.
Robinson’s entry into the MLB ranks was, obviously, delayed. Campanella’s career ended early after an automobile accident left him in a wheelchair. Cochrane was done at 34 after he was hit in the head with a fastball. Greenberg missed three full seasons to World War II. Kiner retired at 32 because of a back injury.
So there’s precedent for stars with shortened careers to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Was Pedroia’s time on the field worthy of Cooperstown? He has an MVP and two World Series titles on his resume. And there’s no arguing his impact when healthy. In his eight “full” seasons, his “worst” bWAR was 3.9, posted twice (139 games in 2007, 135 games in 2014). In the three seasons he played between 75 and 105 games, his bWAR was at least 2.5. And maybe it’s not worth noting, but considering the players on the 2022 ballot, there’s a refreshing lack of “yeah, but …” negatives to consider with Pedroia’s candidacy.
Does Dustin Pedroia’s career look like a “typical” Hall of Famer’s career? No, it doesn’t. But a very strong argument can be made that he does belong, or at the very least he deserves to stick around in the conversation for more than just one year on the ballot.