Over the past five years, with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez carrying the bulk of the offensive load for the Red Sox (not just the stats, but the big, key hits as well), the team MVP was generally a toss up between either member of the Dynamic Duo.
But last year Mike Lowell had a career year and, with Ortiz injured and diminished for much of the year, Lowell picked up the slack and was undoubtedly the Sox’ MVP.
This season, Manny started strong, then had another of his annual mental meltdowns, forcing a trade. Ortiz was injured yet again, missing almost two months with a wrist problem. And Lowell has also been hobbled by injuries, doing two stints on the DL.
Into the void leapt Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. Both players are having career years, and far exceeding any and all expectations.
Pedroia, presently second at .324, could win the A.L. batting title; Joe Mauer is currently the leader at .329. The Boston second baseman leads the league in runs scored (117), as well as leading the Majors in hits (208).
After winning the A.L. ROY in 2007, Pedroia has proven that he was just getting warmed up. This year he became the 23 rd player in the Red Sox storied 108-year history to record as many as 200 hits in a season. He is just the seventh Sox player to record at least 50 doubles in a season, and is now tied for third, at 53, with Tris Speaker (1912). And he is just the third to accomplish both feats (Speaker in 1912, and Wade Boggs in 1989).
Simply put, Pedroia is having the best season of any Sox second baseman—ever. The player who formerly held that distinction, Bobby Doerr, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Pedroia now holds the club record for hits, doubles, runs, extra-bases, and total bases by a second baseman.
Pedroia leads the Majors in hits (208) and doubles (53), is second in multi-hit games (58), first in the AL in runs, second in batting, fourth in total bases, and sixth in the AL in extra-base hits. That puts him in the top-ten in seven different offensive categories.
And on top of all that, he’s played stellar defense and prevented runs. He’s the total package.
And then there’s Youk.
In a season when the Sox usual (or expected) power-hitters and run producers (Ortiz. Lowell and JD Drew) have been slowed by injuries, on the DL, or simply dogging it (Manny), Youkilis has picked up the slack and delivered. The smooth-fielding first baseman has been a force and has carried the offensive load.
Youk is third in the AL in slugging, fourth in homers, fourth in OPS, fourth in extra-base hits, sixth in batting, sixth in OBP, seventh in doubles, eighth in multi-hit games, and ninth in total bases. That puts him in the top-ten in nine separate offensive categories.
Not only is he hitting .314—26 points higher than is carer average—he also has a career-best 27 HR and 111 RBI. With five games remaining, those numbers are already 11 HR and 28 RBI better than his previous bests. He has done more than the Sox ever could have hoped for or imagined. As stated, he is having a career year. He has finally arrived. His All Star selection and the gaudy numbers attest to it.
On top of all the offensive production, this year (extending from last) Youkilis set the MLB record for errorless chances and games by a first baseman. He has just four errors at first this year and should earn his second-consecutive Gold Glove Award.
Before the season began, the Bill James Handbook had these projections for the Sox young infielders:
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Avg. - .290
HRs - 15
RBIs - 78
Runs - 89
BB - 84
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Avg. - .300
HRs - 9
RBIs - 57
Runs - 77
2B - 40
As you can see, the pair have blown away the projections. They’ve both nearly doubled the anticipated home runs.
Who the team MVP is seems to be a toss up. League MVP Awards are generally given to players with eye-popping power numbers. Youkilis’ power numbers are certainly better than Pedroia’s. But Pedey is a diminutive second baseman from whom power is not expected. In fact, his 17 homers are shocking. And as much as Youkilis has exceeded expectations and projections, his power numbers are not beefy enough to win him the MVP.
If Pedroia finishes strong, wins the AL batting title, and leads the Majors in hits, doubles and multi-hit games, his other top-ten AL stats, his stellar defense, and the Sox entry to the playoffs could actually earn him the League MVP—or at last serious consideration.
For that reason, I’d say that Dustin Pedroia is the Red Sox 2008 MVP.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.