Joc Pederson struggles against left-handed pitching. He is not always the greatest defender. He’s not going to light up the sprint speed charts. However, he is a righty-masher, a great clubhouse presence, and a lovable fan favorite. He has even been a postseason hero.
Joc Pederson is in the lineup everyday, batting leadoff mostly against right-handed pitching, and his accomplishments often go unrecognized. For example, Cody Bellinger has absolutely mashed and is getting national attention and for good reason after belting 15 home runs so far this season. But, did you know that Pederson has 13 of his own? Many Major League Baseball fans do not.
On Tuesday night, he crushed the 100th home run of his big-league career which is quite the feat considering how low his low points along his career arc have been. He even hit the homer off of budding Padres ace, Chris Paddack. 100. He just turned 27 years old last month and is only in his fifth season in the majors. No matter how you draw it, it is a solid accomplishment and it should be recognized along with the rest of his career numbers.
Minor League Joc
Although it might seem crazy, Joc Pederson was once a 30-30 threat in the minors. In 2014, for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, he crushed 33 homers and stole 30 bases in just 121 games, putting together an impressive .303/.435/.582 slash line. His walk rate that season was an absurd 18.1%. He got the call and struggled mightily, posting a .494 OPS across 38 plate appearances. Joc has stolen just 15 bases in his MLB career and has just a 36th-percentile sprint speed mark in 2019, according to Baseball Savant.
Everyone clamored for Joc Pederson to get called up. Maybe it's just because Washington is good but he has looked utterly lost at the plate.
— Jeff Mackey (@JMackey0718) September 3, 2014
In 2015, Joc made the Dodgers club outright and was something of a rookie sensation. Through the month of June, Joc crushed 20 homers and drove in 38 runs on the way to an impressive .244/.384/.527 batting line. A .911 OPS through three months of your rookie season is something to celebrate.
What took place after the All-Star Break (after he participated in the Home Run Derby) was not pretty. He slashed just .178/.317/.300 with a 70 wRC+ over 219 plate appearances. It was a brutal stretch that most Dodger fans can recall. After showing such promise in the first half, what happened?
Don Mattingly says he plans to let Joc Pederson work through his struggles at the plate in games. More days off not in the immediate plans.
— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) August 2, 2015
He is now a long time removed from the terrible period of play, obviously, but it is important to note when considering just how far he has come.
In 2016, Joc Pederson began his transition from everyday player to a platoon. Although there was a sizable improvement, marked by an .847 OPS (.918 OPS against RHP) and a 3.5 fWAR mark, not much changed in Joc’s approach at the plate.
2015 Joc Pederson 117 wRC+
2016 Joc Pederson 117 wRC+
— Byron Martinez (@knopebam) August 30, 2016
He was a free-swinger, even with the high walk rate, and was always swinging for the fences to the dismay of plenty of Dodger fans. That did not change in 2017. In fact, it got worse.
Joc had arguably the worst season of his young career in 2017, posting a disappointing .212/.331/.407 batting line, 0.6 fWAR, and a break-even 100 wRC+. To many, it seemed as if Joc Pederson’s days were numbered in a Dodger uniform with droves of fans asking to trade him. His defense even take a major step back, where he saw his outfield DRS plummet further, from 1 to -12. Hidden behind all the bad numbers, though, was positivity. Joc dropped his strikeout rate against righties a whopping 7%, from 27.1% to 20.1%. It laid the foundation for a stellar 2018.
Home Run + 3 RBI
World Series Game 4
— Coach Cam (@coachcamxxx) October 29, 2017
In 2018, Pederson upped his OPS to .893 against right-handed pitching, where almost 90% of his plate appearances came from. He crushed 25 homers once again and drove in 56 runs for the Dodgers. The most notable improvements were in his approach, however. Against right-handed pitching, Pederson struck out just 20.2% of the time, maintaining a solid 9.6% walk rate and putting together a solid 139 wRC+. As he moved from center to left field, his DRS even climbed back up to 1. The approach gave way to improvement and he has continued it into 2019.
RT ESPNStatsInfo: Joc Pederson with his 4th home run in 6 career World Series starts.
Those 4 World Series HR are tied for 3rd-most in Dodgers history.
The only players with more are Duke Snider (11) and Gil Hodges (5). pic.twitter.com/QEBsPRfmb0
— . (@hghgyy377) October 27, 2018
So far this season, Pederson has hit 13 bombs out of the leadoff spot, posting a .220/.331/.593 batting line with a 90th-percentile exit velocity. Although the batting average is lower than what is preferable from Joc, the .924 OPS is far more indicative of the hitter Joc Pederson is in his current state. Through 39 games played, he has already been worth 1.1 fWAR. Something else that is important to note is that Joc’s BABIP thus far is only .176. He is in for major positive regression. A .924 OPS and he is most likely going to improve further? Sign me up! His hard contact rate has even seen a 4.7% rise, which is no small feat.
— Heather Forrester (@HeatherForre) May 15, 2019
Joc and Roll
Joc Pederson has had his share of ups and downs in a Dodger uniform but regardless, you know he is going to be in left field everyday against righties. He knows who he is as a platoon player. He knows his role and he thrives in it.
Asked #Dodgers Joc Pederson if he was anxious to face rookie phenom Chris Paddack: "Absolutely. They have four lefties. So I'll take whoever."
Platoon is not just an Oscar-winning movie. It's a way of life.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) May 15, 2019
Since the start of 2018, Joc has ranked fourth among NL outfielders in OPS against RHP. That is something to take note of considering the three guys ahead of him are Christian Yelich (1.067), David Peralta (.954), and Juan Soto (.921). Then, there is Joc at a fantastic .920 mark. Under-appreciated is Joc.
So, next time you see Joc rounding the bases after a homer, respect the ups and downs he has had to endure to get to this point.