Dodgers: The Dodgers Should Not Bench Joc Yet

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST Manager Dave Roberts
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST Manager Dave Roberts /

The Dodgers have a bit of conundrum coming this weekend when Adrian Gonzalez returns from the disabled list. They want to find playing time for him while keeping Taylor and Bellinger in the lineup.

Gonzalez is supposed to be activated at some point this weekend, and while the Dodgers can use him as their designated hitter for the next three games, the solution will be less apparent when they return to playing National League teams. Gonzalez starting at first base would push Bellinger to left field and Chris Taylor to either center field or second base, meaning Joc Pederson will more than likely lose his starting role.

While he is currently struggling, the Dodgers should not bench him. He is slumping this August as he’s stuck in a 1-34 slump, but he hit .304 in June and a modest .264 in July. As we have come to see with Joc, it’s not necessarily about his batting average but more about the power he produces and his ability to get on base. In each of his first three seasons, Joc put up on base percentages of .351, .346 and .352.  This season his OBP has dipped to .329, but that is due in large part to the horrible slump he is in.

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The Dodgers are better off gambling that Pederson will turn his season around rather than gambling on Adrian Gonzalez returning to form.  For all the criticism he has gotten this season, Joc still has a better batting average and on-base percentage than Gonzalez did before he went onto the disabled list.

I think anyone can agree that they would rather bet on a talented 25-year-old slugger who is slumping rather than a thirty-five-year-old former All-Star with a bad back and neck.

One cannot forget that in his short career thus far, Joc has shown a knack for coming up clutch. Last Wednesday against former Dodger Zack Greinke, Joc knocked in the go ahead run to put LA up for good and win the game.

In last year’s deciding Game 5 of the NLDS, Joc hit a clutch game tying home run off one of the best pitchers in the game, Max Scherzer. Joc is always capable of hitting a home run on any given swing, which makes him worth playing over Adrian Gonzalez, even if he is mired in a horrible slump.

A big part of Joc’s struggles this season have been due to some bad luck. He currently has a BABIP of .239, which is well below the average BABIP of .300. With a handful of extra hits falling in, Joc’s statistics would look like his career averages.

Pederson is never going to hit for a high batting average, but that doesn’t mean he has no value to the team. Despite his lower averages, if he can hit 20+ home runs a season while getting on base at a good rate, he can be one of the better offensive center fielders in the game.

Center field is like shortstop where you put a defensive minded player, but with Seager and Joc at shortstop and center field, the Dodgers could have two offensive threats at both positions that are usually not very productive offensively.

One other area that Joc has improved even with his current struggles is he is striking out less. In 2015 and 2016 Joc struck out over 27% of his at-bats but this season that percentage has gone down to 21%.

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Despite his slump, the Dodgers should not start Adrian Gonzalez if it means benching Joc. He has been clutch in big moments, has youth on his side and has typically been worth at least 3 WAR throughout his young career. Let him prove himself over the remaining month and a half, and he should revert to form.