One of the most maligned players on the Dodgers is Joc Pederson. We say he can’t hit left-handed pitching. His defense and speed gets criticized and he’s probably the guy many would trade in a heartbeat. Heck, I thought he would have been traded before the season started but Joc is still a Dodger.
— Bryan Kephart (@thundercrat) September 21, 2019
Now, with the season almost complete we will look at how Pederson has improved and is having his best overall season yet.
The season started with Joc Pederson as the left-handed hitting half of a platoon in left field. Near the middle of the season the Dodgers experimented with Joc at first base, which was a disaster. Soon after, he started spending a lot more time in right field with Alex Verdugo injured and Cody Bellinger shifting over to center field. What has been surprising is that Pederson is having his best defensive season of his career, including his rookie year. The defensive metrics we’ll be using are Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150) and Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF). All of these advanced defensive metrics are from FanGraphs.
As can be seen in the table above, Joc has played above average defense in both left and right field. Remember, Pederson hasn’t played much right field in his career. His total of 10 DRS is a career high, by far. All in all, he has been playing some good defense for the Dodgers. If you want to do a comparison to Yasiel Puig this year you’ll see that Joc might be playing a better right field than his predecessor.
Hitting Against Lefties
Joc Pederson has struggled against left-handed pitching since the day he was called up to the Major Leagues despite having some success in the Minor Leagues. I’ve noticed in some of his at-bats against lefties he seems to be taking a two strike approach from the beginning and he’s punched a few hits through the left side of the infield. As you can see in the table below there is some gradual improvement in his numbers against lefties.
I’m not advocating for ending the platooning of Joc Pederson but there will be situations where he has to bat against a lefty. In those situations, he is not an automatic out any more.
With Runners In Scoring Position
Dodger fans have a good reason to harp on the team for their hitting with Runners In Scoring Position (RISP). Other than 2016, Joc Pederson has been one of the culprits. Looking at the table below, Pederson has made a lot of improvements with RISP. His opportunities are a bit less than many other teammates due to him batting leadoff but the results from 2019 are a big improvement.
Along with the improvements mentioned above, Joc Pederson also has a career high of 32 home runs (so far) — including 24 at home. It’s a credit to Joc that he has made some key improvements in 2019. He is clearly working to get better. His defense has improved, yet he is still not very fast. That indicates he is positioned well and probably getting good jumps on fly balls.
With Pederson eligible for free agency after the 2020 season I was positive that he would be traded after the 2019 season. Although that is still possible, I can also see the Dodgers and Pederson getting together on something like a 3 year/$30 million contract in the off-season. It will be an interesting off-season with Joc, but don’t be surprised if he’s with the Dodgers into 2020 and beyond.