First things first: Dustin Pedroia has nothing left to prove.
The scrappy second baseman gave everything he had to Boston over a 14-year major league career with the Red Sox. A four-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glover, Rookie of the Year and American League MVP, Pedroia is one of the greatest Red Sox ever and played a central role in two World Series titles (2007 and 2013). He should get a raucous ovation Friday night when he returns to Fenway Park to be honored in a pregame ceremony.
But you'll notice we didn't mention Boston's 2018 title. That's because Pedroia wasn't on that team's postseason roster and played just three regular-season games that year before being shut down with left knee troubles.
Those troubles stemmed from Manny Machado's fateful high slide into Pedroia at second base in April 2017. Pedroia had already undergone left knee surgery the previous offseason, and the Machado incident exacerbated the veteran's balky knee.
Pedroia gutted it out and played 105 games in 2017 on the injured knee but was never the same after that season, appearing in just nine games total between 2018 and 2020 before announcing his retirement in February 2021 at age 37.
The end of Pedroia's career begs the question: How much longer could he have played if the Machado slide never happened?
Our partners at Strat-O-Matic simulated Pedroia's career from 2017 onward assuming he didn't have any major injury setbacks. The results are pretty interesting, not just because of how long he played but how his updated stats impact his Baseball Hall of Fame candidacy.
Dustin Pedroia's Simulated Stats
In Strat-O-Matic's simulation, Pedroia finishes the 2017 strong with a .300/373/.394 slash line in 149 games. Remarkably, he bats over .300 again in 2018, slashing .306/.379/.395 while playing 126 games (at the expense of his real-life replacements Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt). The signs of decline start showing in 2019, but he still hits a respectable .288 over 119 games.
For those scoring at home, that's 245 games over a two-year span instead of the nine he played in real life.
Pedroia's production finally tapers off in 2020 (.240 in 50 games of a 60-game season), but he's still on the roster come 2021 Opening Day and doesn't call it quits until April 22.
As you'll see in the graphic below, those extra two-plus seasons help Pedey take a leap in the Red Sox' record books.
Dustin Pedroia's Career Numbers (Real vs. Simulation)
Most notably, the extra time allows him to cross the 2,000-hit threshold. No MLB player who debuted after 1948 has made the Hall of Fame with fewer than 2,000 hits, so if his real-life mark of 1,805 prevents him from getting into Cooperstown, here's evidence that he probably would have reached that milestone in two more relatively healthy seasons.
Pedroia also passes Red Sox legend (and Hall of Famer) Wade Boggs in both hits and doubles in the simulation and moves ahead of Carlton Fisk and Tony Conigliaro in home runs, an impressive feat for a 5-foot-9 second baseman.
Pedroia should at least be in the Hall of Fame discussion with his current resume, and he's a surefire Red Sox Hall of Famer whose number will likely be retired in Boston. But it's interesting to envision what the final stages of his career could have looked like had he gone out on his own terms.