It has been a tale of two seasons for Los Angeles Dodgers rookie center fielder Joc Pederson. In the first half he went on a tear, hitting 20 home runs en route to earning himself a spot in the All-star game and Home Run Derby. Since the All-star break though, he has largely struggled.
Entering play Sunday Pederson was hitting just .163/.333/.293 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the second half. He has struggled against left-handed pitching in particular, as his on-base percentage on the season is .305 against lefty’s compared to .370 against right-handers.
According to J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News, the rookie’s struggles prompted Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to bench Pederson in favor of fellow rookie Kiké Hernandez:
I think you have to look at (Hernandez), the way he’s swinging, and the decisions we’ll make will be based on trying to put the best lineup out there,” Mattingly said. “This is the time of year with everyone you’re going to try to put the best club on the field. You make a little different decisions now than you would in May or June, as far as trying to build your team over the course of the season, keeping everyone involved in the decisions you make.”
Mattingly added he doesn’t believe benching the 23-year-old Pederson will hurt his development:
If it is, then it’s not who you think he is,” Mattingly said. “It’s like anything else — you hate sending guys down. You know it breaks their spirit a little bit to go down, but everybody’s had to do it. If you can’t overcome that, you’re not going to be able to make the adjustments you need to be here anyway.”
Hernandez, who can play both the outfield and infield, is batting .294 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 163 at-bats on the season entering Sunday. While he has been playing well, he does not have quite as much pop as Pederson.
Sitting Pederson in Saturday’s game made sense given the Astros sent left-hander Scott Kazmir to the mound. However, the rookie wasn’t in Sunday’s lineup despite right-handed rookie Lance McCullers starting for the Astros.