Dustin Pedroia the Hottest Hitter in Baseball, on MVP-Type Run for Red Sox


July 19, 2011

Dustin Pedroia the Hottest Hitter in Baseball, on MVP-Type Run for Red Sox A .295 average, 13 home runs and 50 RBIs isn't much to rave about. Those numbers are good enough for the 32nd-best average in MLB, the 48th-most homers and the 47th-most RBIs.

So why is it a big deal for Dustin Pedroia to have those numbers? It's all about how and when he's putting them up.

He's now third among Red Sox regulars in average, but it was just a little over a month ago that Pedroia was struggling mightily (by his standards) with a .239 mark, four homers and 19 RBIs on June 4. That put him on pace for just 11 home runs and 55 RBIs for the whole season. By comparison, he had 12 home runs and 41 RBIs last year in just 75 games.

The Gold Glove-caliber second baseman never said he was overly worried about the health of his knee, but since getting his knee scoped a few days after that, he's been on an absolute tear.

In the last 35 games, he's hit .383, belted nine homers and driven in 31 runs. Extrapolate those numbers over a 162-game season, and you're talking about 42 homers and 143 RBIs from the Sox' No. 2 hitter. That's just a little bit better than his '08 numbers (.326/17/83), and all those got him was an MVP Award. Place him ahead of Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the AL in average and MLB in RBIs, in the Boston lineup, and it's no wonder the Red Sox have gone 25-10 in those contests.

His hot streak has, without coincidence, gone along with the entire team, which got out to a famously slow start but now leads the AL East and sits just 1/2 game behind the Phillies for the best record in all of baseball. On June 4, when Pedroia was at just .239, the Red Sox were 32-26, winning at a .552 clip through the first two months of the season. Since then, with Pedroia hitting .383, the Sox are 26-10, good enough for a .722 winning percentage.

Pedroia's not the only reason why, but he might be the biggest.

Pedroia went 2-for-5 with three RBIs in Baltimore on Monday, when he (ho-hum) broke a 7-7 tie in the eighth with a two-run, bases-loaded double to right field. It didn't end up being the official game-winner, but the Red Sox never trailed again, going on to score six more runs that inning. Pedroia's now riding a 16-game hitting streak, and he's had multiple hits in exactly half of those games. He's averaged 2.5 hits per game since the All-Star break. His .410 average in July is best in the AL (among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances), as are his six home runs and ridiculous 1.289 OPS.

The double that broke open Monday night's game wasn't even Pedroia's biggest feat of the day. That came in the wee hours of the morning, when Pedroia singled home the lone run of a game that lasted nearly six hours and saw the other 22 batters who stepped to the plate go 5-for-95 (.053 batting average). Pedroia went 3-for-7 (.429).

Somewhere along the way, Pedroia picked up a new nickname, as his teammates all started referring to him as "The Muddy Chicken" after the 16-inning win over Tampa Bay. Nobody really knows the nickname's origins, but it shouldn't even matter. As long as he keeps on producing, he'll keep a much more important title: hottest hitter in baseball.

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