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Dodgers: Joc Pederson Struggles Through a Gloomy June

Joc Pederson started April warm, got hot in May, and did the polar bear plunge in June.

Dodgers’ left-handed slugger Joc Pederson has never been known for a high batting average. His best value is his power against right-handed pitching and some big post-season moments.

Through the end of May, Joc was putting up some great numbers, career numbers perhaps, and was even hitting for average.

However, as solid as he looked through the end of May, Joc’s gloomy June has left many wondering why he gets so much playing time.

Joc started off the 2019 season set to be the primary left fielder for the Dodgers. It was thought that he’d only occasionally be displaced by Alex Verdugo to give him some big league time. In theory, both being left-handed, a straight platoon situation would not work. Joc’s power took precedence over Verdugo’s more “hit for average” approach. Fortunately for all except him, the slumping A.J. Pollock sustained injury and the greatness that is Alex Verdugo, has been seen. During much of that time, Joc has taken over left field while Dugie helmed center.

Joc’s Hot Start

Through May, Joc had 17 home runs and 36 RBIs. He was slashing a robust .274/.375/.663 with an OPS of 1.037. He was on pace 47 home runs and over 100 RBIs.

The month of April was a pretty average Joc month, with a low batting average, and above average home run and RBI totals (.239, 10 HR, 18 RBI). While in May he saw a slight decrease in HR and RBIs, his slash line was an impressive .323/.405/.723 and an 1.128 OPS.

He also had a very impressive 166 wRC+ during that time as well. It’s no surprise that Dave Roberts wanted to continue seeing him in the line up.

June Gloom

In June however, Joc has regressed hard. For the month he is slashing .154/.205/.295 with an OPS of .500. His wRC+ for the month is at 32. This abysmal month has dropped his overall numbers down to .234/.322/.540, a .863 OPS, and a 124 wRC+. While this more in keeping with his career numbers it a pretty drastic drop in just 23 games. As if going through a horrific slump isn’t enough to occupy a batter’s mind, how about a position change?

Outfield Complications

With AJ Pollock set to return sometime next month and Alex Verdugo’s 3 month audition for an everyday starter spot a tremendous success, Joc was poised to be odd man out. Joc’s LHP vulnerability that Verdugo doesn’t share became a glaring weakness. How do you sit a team spark plug like Verdugo who hits equally well against both left-handed and right-handed pitching? You don’t.

How do you sit Pollock who you are handsomely paying a ton of money? I guess if you’re the front office, you don’t. How do you sit one of your best (when not slumping) RHP power hitters? You don’t. Solution? Teach one of them a new position.

Solution or Exasperation?

In mid-June, news broke that Joc was practicing at 1st base. His strong offensive start combined with a soon-to-be crowded outfield made a case that room had to be made somewhere. Apparently, Cody Bellinger who already can play 1st, is deemed too defensively valuable in right field to be moved. While it’s true Belinger’s defensive value in right field is high, his consistent offensive value makes a case that he should play first to reduce risk of injury, but that’s for a different article.

Joc has practiced at 1st before, but this time it seemed serious and on June 20th he made his debut at the position. Since that time he has made 7 starts in the position and amassed a total of 59 innings there resulting in 2 errors and a handful of otherwise awkward plays. He hasn’t been great, but with the timing of everything, can you blame him?

In mid-June, Joc was already in the midst of this ugly slump. It is baffling to think the front office and/or Dave Roberts thought it would be the best time to start having Joc play a new position as highly critical as 1st base. Nearly every infield hit, most double plays, and lots of pick-off attempts go through that position. A lot of those plays hinge on the ability of the 1st baseman to stretch, dig out short hops, or otherwise save poor/off target throws. This is not something accomplished in a few practices, nor is it easy to focus on when slumping so badly.

Final Thoughts

Baseball is a highly psychological sport where great defensive plays can lead to great offense, unfortunately the opposite is true as well. If the Dodgers want Joc’s June slump to end with the month they need to play him where he’s comfortable, where it’s second nature to him. He needs to be free from the mental pressure of playing a new position and not worried that he’s not playing the position as well as his counterparts would. If the Dodgers are looking for versatility, they need to look at their right fielder.

Written by Jason McClure

Technically a Dodgers bandwagon fan. At 5 years old, I decided they were my favorite team after hearing they won the World Series on my mom’s car radio in 1988. My father (technically my stepfather) watered that seed, teaching me the game and introducing me to the beauty of Dodger Stadium. We got to know each other and bonded over games. Even when we couldn’t get along during my teenage years, we could come together over Vin Scully’s voice and a game. Dodger baseball is, and will always be, so much more than just a game.

15 Comments

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  1. Good article here and basically true. However, I do feel that even though Joc was struggling before the move to 1st, he is deep into this as a result of having to learn a new position basically on the fly. what happens when Pollock returns…stay tuned.

    • Hey Paul! Thanks for reading again. Joc definitely WAS struggling before moving to first. I was basically just saying I think that move could have made things worse or just prolong this slump because his mind is focused on poor performance at the plate and in the field!
      Thanks.

  2. If Muncy is basically a DH, and therefore a liability at 2nd or 3rd, then what would you call Pederson playing 1st-base(new position, mid-season), I call it a disaster waiting to happen. Think back to the play Bellinger made to 3rd-base against the giants that the giants challenged and thought their man was safe. There is no way Pederson makes a play like that. He is NOT instinctively a 1st-baseman by position. Pederson(at 1st) or Muncy(at 2nd or 3rd) Will cost the Dodgers a game or two in the standings. I shudder to think what will happen(in the playoffs) when these two clowns are in the field. Hernandez is not much better at SS.

    • ‘NOT instinctively a 1st-baseman by position’

      Didn’t realize first basemen were born. Perhaps you could sign on with LA and setup a draft at the hospital.

      • I think Robin was just trying to say he’s more comfortable in the outfield and 1st base certainly isn’t coming to him as naturally as the outfield may have. Its all learned, but some things come easier. Thanks for reading!

        • Jason, I seriously doubt that Joc would be at 1st and Muncy at 2nd during the PS. there is the July 31st trade deadline so who knows if Joc will even still be here,. He may and I only say may be part of a multi player deal for BP help WSS.
          As we all know pitching and defensive are an absolute MUST in the PS and WS. And not striking out, like they did yesterday again during the PS should help. But our pitching staff MUST also keep the baseball in the yard.

    • Muncy is much more thja a DH. His defense has actually been pretty good this season. Best Dodger team I’ve seen in 52 years as a fan. No complaints here. If you can’t enjoy this team, then you can’t enjoy Dodger baseball.

    • Hi Robin, I don’t consider Muncy a DH. Not sure if he is gold glove material, but I think he is a solid infielder thats pretty versatile. No Pederson is no instinctively a 1st baseman, but who is? It takes a lot of time there to get comfortable and I for one and not comfortable that he’s practiced there enough yet! Thank you for reading!

  3. Pederson is playing horribly at first and Beatty is struggling in Left. Roberts great experiment has cost a game with that pathetic move. Pederson makes a few plays Beatty looked bad on and vice versa. Roberts will always find a way to make a great tem lose an important game when playoffs and WS roll around.

    • Richard,

      I agree Pederson has been poor at first, but I haven’t focused too much on Beaty. Roberts has made some poor big game calls, certainly with the pitching staff, but I think the Joc experiment is more front office puppeteering of Roberts. Overall, I really like Roberts as a manager, I just want him to stop micromanaging the bullpen or leave the decisions up to Honeycutt. Thank you for reading!

      • Spot on Jason because THAT is exactly, as many have said, what is happening as the FO pulling those puppet strings so to speak. We have seen and it has been talked about your other point on Roberts micro managing the pitching staff, especially the BP. It did cost some game in the PS and WS for sure.

  4. Totally agree, Jason, with your take on the1st base experiment and your take on Muncie. He is decent in the field. I also agree with you assessment of Roberts and the bullpen. Speaking of intuition, there isn’t much there. It’s time to get their noses out of their notebooks.

  5. The Pederson experiment at 1st-base needs to stop. He is struggling to hit again because he’s thinking about ins and outs of 1st-base. Put Muncy at 1st and trade Pederson for a relief arm or perhaps starting pitcher. Enough with the “goofing-off.”

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