Joc Pederson went from a seemingly lost cause, to a major factor for the Dodgers in the World Series.
Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson is having a World Series to remember. He’s the first Dodgers player to hit three home runs in the World Series since Davey Lopes did it back in 1978, and will be a key bat in the lineup as Los Angeles attempts to win its first Fall Classic since 1988 in Wednesday’s Game 7. The craziest part about Pederson’s October success? The fact we’re witnessing it at all.
The outfielder had a season to forget and it seemed not too long ago his time in Los Angeles was coming to an end. He had to miss almost three weeks after suffering a concussion in late May, and was only hitting .200. Then came his demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City in mid-August.
He had posted a .226 battering average in 56 games between June 13, when he came off the disabled list, and Aug. 18, when he was sent down to Triple-A. The Dodgers called up Alex Verdugo when the rosters expanded, and waited until the Triple-A season was over to bring Pederson back to the major league roster.
The question is how Joc Pederson went from two home runs in 43 second-half games, and being left off the Dodgers NLDS roster, to having probably the best World Series of anyone on the team?
It starts with contact. He’s 5-for-14 during the World Series, and all five of those hits are for extra-bases. His full slash line is an absurd .357/.438/1.143, and his OPS would lead everybody in the World Series if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
The reason he’s making contact more is because he’s finally starting to track pitches better, and is laying off the inside breaking balls he’s always struggled with. He also got better at the game “pepper.” The goal of pepper is to hit the ball around the infield in order (from third to first, and back around).
Pederson has been playing pepper since last season, but when he started absolutely no one was safe. Infielders are no more than 30-40 feet away from home plate in pepper, and since Pederson had no clue where he was going to hit the ball, everyone had to be on their toes. For a guy like Pederson who has a hard time being consistently mechanically sound, pepper is the best way to fix that. It took over a year, but the results are starting to show.
When you get good at pepper you get better bat control, and once you get better bat control you can do whatever you want with whatever pitch is thrown to you. Case in point: Pederson’s opposite field bomb in Game 6.
If this was during the regular season there’s a good chance he tries to pull this ball, and if he does he’s going to roll over to first or second because Joe Musgrove throws 98-plus MPH. Pederson can hit the ball to the moon when he chooses, but he can only do that if he’s consistently mechanically sound.
Pederson is going to strike out, and that’s fine because that’s how the game works now. If you can hit the long ball no one cares if you strike out. He’s also never going to get cheated on his swing. If you can hit the ball to the moon then you have to play to your strength, and since Pederson is putting the ball in play more often it’s made him that much more dangerous.