In the first half of the season Los Angeles Dodgers rookie center fielder Joc Pederson made the game of baseball look easy. Whether it was with the glove where he made dazzling play after dazzling play, or with the bat where he hit 20 first half homers and had an on-base percentage approaching .400.
Pederson has since come back down to earth, as his bat has struggled a bit in the second half. Since the All-star break the 23-year-old is hitting just .176 with three homers and seven RBIs. His batting average on the season is down to .218. Although he did hit a home run on Sunday that was followed by a Zack Greinke home run in an eventual 2-1 victory.
Despite his struggling bat, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has kept the centerfielder in his lineup almost every single day mostly due to defense. “There are conversations you have, but we talk about pitching and defense,” Mattingly said. “Joc has been swinging the bat pretty good right now. He’s not getting a lot of hits, but he’s putting the ball in play. He’s getting on base. You start giving up defense and you end up paying for it. It’s hard to do, for me.”
Pederson has been a little better at the plate recently, despite not getting very many hits. In 47 plate appearance since August 4, he only has five hits (two home runs), but he has walked 16 times so his OBP in that time span is .447.
The walks are nice, but Pederson’s defense has been even nicer. Center field is one of the most important defensive positions on the field, and having a good defender out there that can track down almost any ball hit in his vicinity makes a big difference. So as long as Pederson continues to play Gold Glove caliber defense, he will remain Mattingly’s everyday center fielder.