Joc Pederson is Adjusting
Up until the All-Star break, Joc Pederson was a star. He combined effortless power with great defense in center field, hit for average and had speed on the basepaths. He was an All-Star at 23 and came second in the Home Run Derby and was hitting .230 with 20 home runs and an OPS+ of 139.
Then the league adjusted and in the second half he has hit just .178 with 5 homeruns. He has also now struck out 168 times. Joc was really good in the first half, but not perfect. There were holes in his swing and with the amount of advance scouting that occurs these days, the league adjusts fast. The result for Pederson was a lot of strike outs and even more soft contact.
To highlight this let’s look at a typical Joc strikeout in the first half.
The first thing you can see in this video is his stance. Pederson is super upright and knees straight, back straight, bat straight – everything is straight up and down. Which is ok except, as you can see for yourself, this forces him to lunge violently at the pitch. This creates two problems. Firstly, if Joc guesses wrong it is impossible to adjust to the pitch. Once he strides he has committed to one pitch at one one speed and, well… this is the big leagues. Secondly, it often causes him to lose balance mid-swing, resulting in what can be called ‘pulling off the ball’ – an issue Eric Longenhagen of ESPN covers in more detail. This results in the outside half being exposed. This is a particularly large problem for Pederson as he lets his hands get so far away from his body, which is why you’ve seen him receive a steady diet of fastballs at his hands. The result of all this is not a lot of hits.
The first sign of adjustment came a few months ago when he regained his spot in center field thanks to Enrique Hernandez’s injury.
Here’s the last home run Pederson hit. You can see here there’s a slight bend in the knees and he has flattened his bat back over his shoulder more. The stride is a little more under control, however he still pulls off the ball badly. It pays off here but its’s certainly not sustainable. He’s still exposed on the outer half and still lacks balance meaning it was difficult for him to ever consistently make quality contact. But there’s hope, he’s made a new round of adjustments and the early results look promising.
Here’s a ground out from Wednesday night. Here you see a totally different Joc Pederson. In fact, Joc looked good all night, this probably being his worst swing for the night. Here he is set up far more athletically, his stride is under control and his swing is very much under control as well. His leg kick is still there but not anywhere near as violent. This new swing from Pederson, which has occured seemingly overnight, looks far more conducive to consistent quality contact.
In the game Pederson went 0-3 with 2 hard groundballs and a well hit fly ball to deep left-center. If he continues to put balls in play like this, good results are sure to come some time soon. Perhaps in time for the playoffs.