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Dodgers: Joc Pederson’s Surprise Improvements In 2019

Defense, hitting against lefties and RISP.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Joc Pederson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two-run homerun during the fourth inning of the MLB game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 8-2. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

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.

Now, with the season almost complete we will look at how Pederson has improved and is having his best overall season yet.

Defense

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.

Year Pos Innings DRS UZR/150 DEF
2015 CF 1123.0 -3 -1.6 1.0
2016 CF 1032.0 1 0.3 3.4
2017 CF 655.2 -12 -11.0 -4.4
2018 LF 667.2 4 7.0 -0.4
2018 CF 187.1 -3 -19.8 -2.5
2019 LF 525.2 6 16.8 2.6
2019 RF 204.0 4 9.9 0.0

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.

Year AB H BB SO AVG OBP SLG
2015 116 25 13 48 .216 .295 .397
2016 64 8 11 22 .125 .250 .219
2017 49 10 6 14 .204 .291 .306
2018 53 9 3 7 .170 .211 .302
2019 48 11 1 15 .229 .245 .271

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.

Year AB H BB SO AVG OBP SLG
2015 98 20 30 32 .204 .385 .327
2016 96 27 19 29 .281 .398 .448
2017 66 14 14 13 .212 .361 .439
2018 83 18 11 13 .217 .299 .349
2019 92 25 14 21 .272 .382 .576

Summary

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.

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

8 Comments

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  1. So .229/.245/.271 isn’t an automatic out? Maybe not, but it’s the next best thing. He should never see a lefty. Straining out almost 1/3 of the at bats and producing the above slash line is simply pathetic, no matter how much lipstick you try to smear on that pig.

  2. I hope he gets traded…I actually like him alot but our stupid manager uses him as a leadoff hitter what a moron but hopefully friedman can pull of another puig type trade

  3. I’ve always liked Joc….but you can’t expect him to hit Lefties if he never gets to see them. You know that if he played everyday he would have 40 plus homers this year …maybe a 260 average and a pretty decent defense…I’m sure lots of teams would or should be thrilled to have that in a right fielder PLUS he’s also a great rooting team mate!

    • What makes you think he’d hit 260? His career average against RHP alone is only 241. Joc’s had plenty of opportunities against LHP (335 AB in his career) and he’s awful. 188 average, 9 HRs, and 109 SOs. No – he has earned the platoon position.

  4. Stormin’Norm, excellent point on the fact that he cannot hit LHP if he rarely if ever gets to with any consistency. He again did not get the starting CF job in 2015 by not at least having decent numbers against them in the minors. But Dodgers just may be convinced that he’s best suited to be in a platoon and maybe he has excepted that. But notice that whenever a LHP starts against the Dodgers, that means 32+ HR’s are sitting. My suggestion for Joc is to do this coming off season what Bellinger did in order to get that platoon role removed. Cody worked all off season to show he CAN hit LHP and we are seeing those results….17 HR’s so far against LHP. alone. That is more than many players in MLB will hit for the entire year!

    • 335 abs vs lefties is enough to prove he’s pathetic against them. A .188/.263/.310 split in 335 abs tells me he’s hopeless. No power to speak of. Even vs righties his career average is only .241, though he does have decent power numbers against them.

      • Pretty much now that is the case and perhaps Joc seems fine in his current platoon role. As Orel and Joe pointed out however, at some point during the game he may just have to take an AB against a LHP who is brought in, and that said pitcher is only in there for a couple of hitters, then followed by another RHP. So it may not be ideal to remove him just because a LHP is coming in because for the rest of the game, the other team may only have RHP to bring in.

  5. If the Dodgers give Peterson a 30 mill 3 year deal, and fail to sign a shut down closer or a shut down starter, they will be starting the 4th decade of a World Series championship. The Dodgers have much more pressing issues than a platoon outfielder that hits 230..

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