After weeks of waiting to see if Jimmy Rollins would bust out of his slump, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly replaced the veteran shortstop at the top of the order with Joc Pederson. When Rollins couldn’t get going from the two-hole, Mattingly dropped him to eighth on the lineup card May 30.
Mattingly’s lineup has otherwise remained relatively unchanged. Adrian Gonzalez was moved from third to cleanup and recently back to the three-spot; alternating with Howie Kendrick each time. However, on Thursday Yasmani Grandal started and batted second for just the third time this season and Justin Turner was in the cleanup spot.
The shuffle was in response to Kendrick being unavailable due to a stiff right knee and Mattingly’s mindset of wanting to get his hottest hitters more at-bats. “I think the batting order thing really is you want to try and get the guys who are swinging the bat best within that group of guys to get the most at-bats,” Mattingly answered when asked how much a batting order truly matters.
Mattingly went on to add the conventional wisdom of the top of the order ideally consisting of players who are capable of consistently getting on base, followed by those who can drive them in. “I think it [batting order] matters to a point because you want to set guys up,” he said.
Since being moved to the top of the lineup Pederson is batting .256/.360/.628 with 14 home runs, 23 RBIs, 43 strikeouts and 19 walks in 150 plate appearances over 33 games. Albeit in a much smaller sample size (15 games, 57 plate appearances), he had a .500 on-base percentage when hitting eighth.
While some have expressed a concern over Pederson’s strikeout rate, Mattingly has downplayed it and said he’s comfortable with the rookie center fielder’s performance while adding he ideally would like to see Pederson hold an on-base percentage near .400.
Mattingly said prior to Thursday’s game he doesn’t have any intentions on moving Pederson from the leadoff spot. After five consecutive games with a home run, Pederson’s streak came to an end Thursday night, though he narrowly missed extending it with a ball that hit off the left field fence for a double in the third inning.
2015 Sports Spectacular — Chester Pitts