Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Before everybody freaks out and sees the title as a grand display of being upset at a first place team that has a .600 winning percentage, take a look at this:
[table id=20 /]
Surprised? I know, I know! The Dodgers have the best offense in the entire league. Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, the bench, the outfield, and lately Juan Uribe, they’re good! The idea that “you don’t need right handed power as long as they’re scoring runs” was the rebuttal of the offseason. And while i’d submit that the team’s biggest worry might lie in facing uber elite left handed pitching in the playoffs, that’s a long way away, and the Dodgers are crushing everybody else they face.
All that said, boy do the Dodgers have an issue at the top of the lineup: .182/.281/.299. 20 games into the season. That’s like Erisbel Arruebarrena without power. It’s like Miguel Rojas figured out how to draw a walk. It’s…. bad. We’ve dabbled, and even rationalized the idea of Rollins batting leadoff on the team. The thinking was as long as age didn’t throw him off the proverbial clip, he’d be fine! Yasiel Puig‘s value derives from being the prototypical #2 hitter, we had absolutely no idea about Joc Pederson, Carl Crawford doesn’t walk, neither does Howie Kendrick. It was a pretty natural fit for Rollins considering that he could run and walk at a good clip.
Now that Puig is hurt (and the team is committed to him as the 2nd hitter), Crawford is gone for months, Kendrick is thriving in the cleanup position, there is a clear option to leadoff. Joc Pederson currently has 1.014 OPS, with the speed to be an above average baserunner, and the pop to give the team the lead in the 1st inning, always a valuable tool. He has the archetypal speed, the archetypal plate discipline (even though he’s becoming more of a true outcome type hitter). The bottom line is that there isn’t really an easy fit on the roster who can play everyday, and leadoff everyday. I suppose Enrique Hernandez, but he’s definitely not getting playing time over Alex Guerrero, and certainly not over Scott Van Slyke.
The reasoning to bump Rollins down and Pederson up should boil down to this: Joc has shown consistent ability across all levels (including MLB up to this point) to get on base at high clips. Hell, Joc has sustained at least a .350 OBP since his time at High-A ball, so him leading the team in walks isn’t totally manufactured by him hitting in the 8th spot. Add in the stolen base upside and it’s a fine option on a team bereft of leadoff types. Rollins is a fine player to have, who’s made more valuable by the fact that while he’s been putrid thus far, the SS position league wide is somewhat of a dumpster fire. He certainly won’t hit an empty .182 the rest of the way, but is best served at the bottom of the order.
A projection of a .330 OBP and a nominal amount of power (.150 ISO) for Joc is fairly conservative, well these are the seasons that Rollins has matched or exceeded that:
Because I wrote this, I expect Rollins to challenge for an MVP going forward and Pederson to settle in to an average regular but nothing like we’ve seen thus far, but until that happens, Pederson should hit 1st in the lineup because somehow he offers the best amount of on base value for the team.