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Dodgers: Joc Pederson at First Base Creates a Ripple Down Effect

The answer to “who’s on first, what’s on second” might soon be Joc and Max.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 10: Joc Pederson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a solo home run, for his second of the game, in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on May 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Lifelong outfielder Joc Pederson has been taking ground balls at first base. It’s something he’s done in the past but never became relevant as he has zero career innings at the position.

This time, it’s going to be different as manager Dave Roberts said Pederson will see some time there when outfielder A.J. Pollock returns to the team.

On the surface, it’s a confusing move. The team already has a star at first baseman in Max Muncy and if they wanted an outfielder to play first, Cody Bellinger is one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball.

As weird as their decision may seem, it makes a lot of sense for them on the offensive side and defensive side of the game.

Why Joc would be the one to leave the outfield

When Pollock returns, the team is going to have four players who deserve to start in the outfield. They can’t take their bats out of the lineup so they will have to get more creative.

The easy plan would be to move Cody Bellinger to first and plug Pollock into the outfield. The problem there is that weakens the outfield defense by a significant amount to gain an edge at first, arguably the easiest position to play. Roberts also said moving Bellinger to first would be unlikely due to his recurring shoulder injury.

This season, Pederson ranks as an average defender in left field and has a track record of being near the bottom, according to Baseball Savant’s catch percentage added (how many plays they make compared to how many they’re expected to make).

Dodgers
LOS ANGELES, CA – (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

Pollock has been far worse, ranking 128 of 156 with a -4 percent catch percentage added (minimum 25 chances), but he has a strong track record of being a plus defender. They also aren’t going to bench or move Pollock after signing him to a long term deal over the off-season.

On the other hand, Bellinger has been among the best defensive outfielders in baseball and Alex Verdugo has been slightly above average in center field. They can’t afford to take either of them out of their outfield without a significant defensive loss.

A move to left field could help Pollock regain some of his defensive value, which pushes Pederson out of the outfield or into a platoon with him. A platoon between them would make sense, but it’s also unlikely Andrew Friedman envisioned that when he signed Pollock.

Why Joc at first base makes sense

The Dodgers have a hole at second base against right-handed pitchers. Both Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor have not lived up to expectations, especially when facing right-handers.

To help fix that, the Dodgers have been using Matt Beaty at first and sliding Muncy over to second. The results have helped them, but they still aren’t ideal. With the bat, Beaty has been 23 percent below average and he isn’t a strong defender either.

Using Pederson at first would give them the offensive production they’ve been lacking from the non-Muncy players on the right side of their infield. It would also allow them to use a platoon at first with David Freese, since Pederson can’t hit left-handers, while still keeping Muncy as an everyday player.

Freese could also mix in for starts at first against right-handers while Joc goes to left field to give Pollock rest. But he has also thrived in a bench role and they might not want to mess with that.

Hernandez would return to the utility role he has excelled at and Taylor would continue to fill in at shortstop until Corey Seager returns from his injury. When Seager is back, Taylor could backup Verdugo in the outfield and Seager at shortstop.

It would be a big boost to their offensive production and if Pederson is passable at first, it might even make the defense stronger.

Projected Defensive Lineup:

C: Austin Barnes #FreeWillSmith

1B: Joc Pederson vs. RHP / David Freese vs. LHP

2B: Max Muncy

3B: Justin Turner

SS: Corey Seager (Taylor until Seager is back from the IL)

LF: A.J. Pollock

CF: Alex Verdugo

RF: Cody Bellinger

Bench: Russell Martin, Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor, David Freese / Joc Pederson

Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

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  1. Blake, this what ya say is true:
    “It would be a big boost to their offensive production and if Pederson is passable at first, it might even make the defense stronger”
    However, if Pederson is desiring more playing time, he must show at least SOME improvement hitting LHP. Look how it has been basically keeping Bellinger, Muncy and Verdugo in the lineup daily for the most part. Joc doing better against LHP would be that offensive boost.

    • AZUL, as usual, you are right on point : Joc must show the team he can hit LHP with more consistency than in the past. If he can do this, the team will be on the road to post season play I believe. I liked how Taylor was swinging the bat last night : more confidence in his ability.

      Go Blue!!!!!!

  2. It also stands to reason that Joc must be given some chances to start against LHP but at the same time, Freese is one of only 2 RH batters that are productive offensively on this team, meaning somewhat more consistent.

    • I welcome this move with open arms as it lengthens the lineup from positions 1 thru 8. And, even more so if Will Smith is called back up to work behind the plate. Sooner or later Corey will return and that would give us a powerful infield combined with a super outfield. Of course, this also might reduce the role of the BP in tight games, as the number of tight games might diminish significantly. For a team that possesses this much firepower, I want all “artillery pieces” working at the same time!!!! Go Blue!!!!! Go PD Jr!!!! Go AZUL!!!

  3. Offensively, this is a smart move. Genius actually. That may be exaggerated because I’m a big fan of Joc but, it is a good way to keep his bat in the lineup. If you compare his numbers to those of regular 1b in the NL, he’s in the top 5 in R, HR and SLG%, 9th in OPS and RBI. He’d be middle of the pack in H, BB, OBP and SO and obviously more towards the bottom in AVG. But, these numbers are also with him having 40-90 fewer at bats than those who regularly play 1b. This would also allow Freese to stay fresh for the platoon.

  4. I disagree, Paul. Joc against lefties is epically ugly. He has no clue how to hit a left handed pitcher. I think they realize they’ve given him enough chances. It’s time to stop embarrassing the dude.

    • I honestly believe that Joc’s inability to hit southpaws comes down to the fact that he never really faced them. In 4 years in the minors I think he hit .250 against them. 2 of those years he hit over .300. I think when the new front office came in and started to value metrics more, Joc’s chances against leftys decreased and so did his production.

  5. Well, I only brought this up because as some here are saying, it keeps his bat in the lineup a bit more often.. But I get what ya are saying. If you were to ask Joc about getting additional chances to be in there against at least a couple of them, I doubt he would turn that opportunity down.

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