The Dodgers changed up their outfield configuration this week moving A.J. Pollock to left field. It was a move that became necessary for LA’s defense.
When the Dodgers signed A.J. Pollock in the offseason, they had hoped he could man centerfield over the next few seasons in order to ask less of Cody Bellinger. Bellinger played centerfield last season but in the postseason he shined in right field, including an amazing catch in game four of the National League Championship Series.
This season, Bellinger has shifted between first base and right field with right field being his primary position. He has shined out in right, becoming one of the favorites for a National League gold glove award. The problem is that A.J. Pollock has become a liability in centerfield. So much so, that the club decided to move him to left field this week.
While there is a chance the Dodgers could try Pollock in center again next season, left field is a better fit for him this season. A.J. has been dealing with a groin injury that prevents him from reaching that fourth gear chasing balls down in the outfield. When watching him play, it’s easy to tell that he’s being hampered by a nagging groin injury.
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With an insurmountable lead in the division, the Dodgers could’ve put A.J. on the injured list, but he had been swinging a hot bat after returning from his elbow infection, so the blue did not want to take him out of the lineup. Instead, he played and provided poor defense in center. By shifting to left field, not only will Pollock have a better chance of staying healthy, it gives the Dodgers’ defense a big boost with Bellinger in center.
This season, Pollock has a UZR/150 rating of -20.3 in centerfield. Cody Bellinger, on the other hand, has a UZR/150 rating of 15.9. When you go by Statcast’s defensive measurement of outs above average, Bellinger comes in at 7 while Pollock is one of the worst on the team with -4. No matter what defensive metric used, Pollock grades out well below average as a centerfielder.
In left field, he should at least rate as average, while Cody Bellinger gives the Dodgers plus defense in centerfield. Who plays right field depends on the day, but Joc Pederson (7.1 UZR/150) has become an above-average fielder in right and he should get the bulk of the starts against right-handed starters.
Despite being signed to play centerfield, at least for the rest of this season, Pollock will play in left field for the majority of his starts. It’s a move that became necessary not only to improve the Dodger defense but also to help preserve A.J. Pollock’s health. It was just the latest move made by the Dodgers as they begin to sort out their postseason roster.