Statistics are great. They give a team a greater look into the values of individual players, painting a picture for the club of what the best lineup is or which reliever should come into the game. But, sometimes the best numbers are the simple ones. In the case of trading Joc Pederson to sign AJ Pollock, the simple stats tell the whole story.
Trading Pederson could make sense. It is feasible if the Dodgers want to move the 26-year old outfielder as an incentive for a team to give back a better player. Trading Joc to Cleveland for Corey Kluber or to Miami for JT Realmuto are no-brainer moves. But, the Dodgers seem to be mulling over a different plan.
Baseball seasons are a drag. 162 games long and every single one is as crucial as the next. Game 35 could serve the same purpose as game 135 in a division race thus, player health and their ability to play games are crucial. When any given player can not stay healthy the team has to play backups and platoons, disrupting the rhythm of the lineup but more importantly, taking value off the field.
This presents the first issue with moving Pederson and adding Pollock. Pollock’s track record for staying healthy is far from reliable while Pederson has the legs to play a full season.
Over the last three years, AJ Pollock has played a combined 237 games or 48 percent of possible opportunities to play. In 2016, Pollock played just 12 games and in the two seasons after that, he’s played just 225. Pederson has played 410 games or 84 percent of possible opportunities to play. That is a 37 percent difference in games played and again, in a season so long with so many important games, the ability to stay on the field is crucial.
Before we take a look at some more advanced numbers I want to relate games played to something off the field: money. Every team considers its financial standing and the Dodgers do that on a whole new level. In 2019, Pederson is set to make $5 million whereas Pollock could easily be gearing up to sign a deal with three times that in one year.
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For someone that has played almost 40% fewer games over the span of three years, why pay the extra dollar.
Sure, AJ Pollock has a higher WAR and is a better bat but the difference in their offensive output is so minimal that the difference in games has to draw more significance and meaning than it currently is.
Let’s broaden the spectrum to the bigger numbers now. Last season, Pederson had a 126 wRC+. wRC+ uses run created and adjusts that it to account for a players ballpark. 100 is league average and every point above or below 100 is how many percentage points a player was than average. Last year, Joc was 26 percent better than the average.
In 2018, AJ Pollock had a wRC+ of just 110, 16 percent worse than Pederson.
There is an argument that moving Pederson is the right move. AJ Pollock does bring a right-handed bat to a team that is heavily left-handed right now. Of the 16 batters on the 40-man roster, half of them swing from the left side of the plate. So, to diversify the handedness of the batting corps, adding Pollock and removing the lefty Pederson may be a good idea.
There is also the argument that taking a calculated risk on Pollock’s health is worth the dime and the subtraction of Joc. If Pollock can stay healthy his bat has the potential to far exceed that of Pederson’s and in that again lies a perfectly good reason to make the moves.
But, at the end of the day, you can only judge a player based off of the work he has provided, not the work he is yet to do. Teams can take risks as much as they want but when you have an affordable, serviceable player like Joc Pederson already on your roster, trading him away to sign a 31-year-old with a definitive inability to stay healthy, seems like the wrong move.
Games are valuable. A player as needed more than ever to be on the roster and available as much as he can and that is magnified when you are a starter. For the Dodgers, that predicament should be an easy one to solve. Do not trade Joc Pederson to sign a guy in AJ Pollock who has no history of staying healthy for a full campaign. The season could depend on it.