On June 24 against the Colorado Rockies, second baseman Dustin Pedroia went 5-for-5 with three homers, helping the Red Sox secure a victory that would leave them in a tie for second place in the American League East. In the next game, Pedroia would end up breaking his foot and leaving early–what was assumed to be a six week layoff went a little longer than that, and now the Red Sox find themselves 5.5 games back of the Rays in the standings.
The drop in the standings is no coincidence–Pedroia wasn’t the lone Sox player to hit the disabled list during this stretch, but he was out for the longest stretch and is right up there with Kevin Youkilis as one of the most productive players in the major leagues, never mind just on his own team. Pedroia was hitting .292/.370/.502 at the time of his injury and had already amassed 3.5 WAR and WARP before the midpoint of the season. In a similar amount of playing time, Bill Hall and Jed Lowrie have combined for roughly half that value.
In his absence, Red Sox second basemen combined to hit .255/.328/.466, which is well above the average performance at second base, but also a far lesser performance than Pedroia’s worst effort in the majors. To put things into perspective: even while missing nearly two months of playing time, Pedroia still ranks #6 among second basemen in runs above replacement. It’s the kind of performance Boston could have lived with where it just Pedroia, but with Youkilis missing the past few weeks, Victor Martinez hitting the disabled list soon after Pedroia, and the constant Mike Cameron/Jacoby Ellsbury outfield shuffling, Boston didn’t have anymore leeway to give in regards to lost production.
With that being said, they are not out of it yet, and the return of Pedroia is the right time to remember that. Despite the misfortune of the past few weeks–losing Youkilis for the year, blowing a game against the Jays in the ninth and a pair of losses in Texas–the Red Sox managed to increase their playoff odds from 23 percent to 26 percent. Playoff odds are calculated by simulating the season one million times per night, after the events of the day’s games have concluded. The percentage chance is the number of times they ended up in the playoffs–with Pedroia back and (most of) the rest of the team healthy and on the field, you have to think those chances have room to improve.
Both the Yankees and the Rays are suffering from injuries and some poor performances as of late, and it has kept them from slamming the door on the Red Sox’ season. It’s no guarantee those clubs will regret this recent stretch come the end of September–26 percent is a number with some hope attached, but almost everything has to go right for Boston now for it to mean much. The important thing to remember is that they are in a better position today with Pedroia back than they were this morning, and that’s reason enough to keep that hope going.