Dustin Pedroia has been an Iron Man for the Sox this season, playing in all but one of the team's 129 games to date.
New York has its Lou Gehrig. Baltimore has its Cal Ripken, Jr. And cast from that same mold, Boston has its own Man of Iron in second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Dependable, durable and an relentless demagogue both in the clubhouse and on the field, Pedroia has been one of the driving forces in Boston’s surprising worst-to-first turnaround in the American League East to date.
He’s not just the heart and soul of the Sox. He’s the churning guts. The chipped tooth. The scraped and bloodied knee.
Pedroia has played in all but one of Boston’s 129 games this season, despite having sufficient reasons to take a rest and ride the pine.
On opening Day he suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb while sliding head-first into first base. Should have been out six to eight weeks. Not Pedroia. Played right through it.
Last Saturday against the Yankees, he fouled a ball off his left shin — dangerously close to the same spot where he fractured his foot in the same fashion back in 2010, limiting him to 75 games and necessitating offseason surgery — and went down in the dirt. But he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and finished the at-bat. After the game, he limped out of the clubhouse but was back on the lineup card the very next day.
That’s Pedroia. Bang him around and knock him down. Just don’t expect him to stay there.
"He leads by example in situations like this, or with his thumb, or how he goes about every at-bat, the way he plays defense," said manager John Farrell. "We also know he's a vocal leader, but his actions speak volumes and much louder than anything he could possibly say. There's no false pretenses with him. He's about one thing and that's winning for the Red Sox."
To wit: Pedroia leads the Sox in games played, plate appearances and walks, and is second in at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles and RBI. He’s tied with Joey Votto of Cincinnati for most games played in the majors this season and leads the league in total plate appearances and number of pitches.
Among MLB second basemen he’s second in at-bats (510), hits (150), doubles (30) and tied for second in runs (72). He’s ranked third in OBP (.372), fourth in RBI (70), fifth in batting average (.294) and third in Wins Above Replacement behind only New York’s Robinson Cano and St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter.
He’s no slouch on the field, either — among second basemen, Pedroia leads the league in Defensive Wins Above Replacement and is second in total chances (564), assists (354) fewest errors (4) and fielding percentage (.993) and third in double plays (90).
What Pedroia ultimately brings to the team can’t necessarily be defined by projected numbers or Sabermetrics, however. Despite his recent $110-million contract extension that will keep him in Boston through 2021, his actual worth is difficult to quantify, but oh so easily qualified.
“He’s got a high pain threshold, there’s no question,” said Farrell, earlier this season. “His career has shown he’s not going to be taken out of the lineup easily. He’ll fight you tooth and nail to stay in. He sets a tone, not only of performance, but of grit and determination.”
He also sets an example. While he only measures five foot eight, Pedroia gives all major leaguers something to look up to.