Including Tuesday night against the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie center fielder Joc Pederson has struck out in his first at-bat in five of the 11 games out of the All-Star break. He did so Tuesday and also struck out in the fourth and sixth innings, finishing the night 0-for-4.
In all fairness to Pederson, he wasn’t the only Dodger befuddled by Sonny Gray. The Athletics right-hander scattered three hits over nine dominant innings of a shutout win. Nonetheless, after the loss Pederson’s strikeout rate was among the topics manager Don Mattingly addressed.
“He seems to be frustrated,” Mattingly said. “I’m a little bit concerned. The skipper also shared his assessment of Pederson’s approach at the plate. He’s working on different things, it’s not like he’s just going up there,” he said. “I know it seems like he swings for the fences all the time, but that’s not what he’s really trying to do.
“He’s trying to get inside the ball a little bit using his bottom hand. It’s not like he’s not working on stuff. He’s frustrated. At some point Joc’s going to get that front side thing, and he’s going to be a monster. He’s going to be a tough out.”
Given that Pederson is batting .176/.239/.271 with only one home run and 28 strikeouts in July, Mattingly acknowledged there’s been some consideration to dropping the rookie in the batting order. “We’ve been talking about it a little bit,” he said.
Some of that is tied to Pederson’s strikeout numbers reaching a level not necessarily expected.
“I didn’t think he would strikeout this much,” Mattingly said. “It’s more than I want.”
Despite the growing pains, Mattingly voiced his support of Pederson. “Again, you still see the huge upside. Everything about Joc is really what I like, as far as his work ethic, what kind of teammate he is, and how he goes about his business,” he said.
“When you have the talent and you work at it, you’re going to see improvement. It’s not always easy during the course of the season.” On the season Pederson is batting .228/.352/.464 with 21 home runs, 43 RBIs, a 133 wRC+ and 28.9 strikeout percentage.