What Exactly Is Going on With Joc Pederson?

The one-time Rookie of the Year contender suddenly finds himself struggling mightily. What's happened?

Just last month, Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson was making a name for himself as one of the game's brightest young stars at the Home Run Derby. So how weird would it be for him to be playing in Triple-A at some point in the next couple weeks?

That's how bad Joc Pederson has been lately. The NL rookie leader in home runs has stumbled terribly in recent weeks, now hitting a meager .221/.352/.451 after an 0-for-2, three-walk performance against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night. And while his fWAR of 2.8 is tied for third-best among National League rookies, his struggles at the dish are pronounced enough that there is speculation he could be sent down to the minors to get back on track.

That would be quite a fall from grace, but also understandable. Below are his stats from the beginning of the season through June 29th (arbitrary end point alert!), and his numbers from June 30th through Wednesday night.

Thru 6/29 319 .241 .384 .529 20 17.2 29.2 155
Since 6/30 109 .172 .248 .253 1 6.4 33 44

That's, um, quite a difference. Pederson's walk rate has tumbled over that time, while his already-high strikeout rate bumped up even more. And the numbers are even worse since the All-Star Break.

1st Half 366 .230 .364 .487 20 15.8 29.2 139
2nd Half 62 .179 .258 .268 1 6.5 35.5 52

And it's pretty clear that Pederson simply isn't hitting ball as hard as he was earlier in the season.

Dates Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
1st Half 45.1 36.9 18 14.9 43.6 41.5
2nd Half 50 14.7 35.3 23.5 44.1 32.4

As you can see, Pederson was taking the ball up through the middle of the field at a much greater rate early on, but has recently become pull-happy. He's also hitting the ball without as much authority in the second half, seeing his softly-hit ball percentage jump and his hard-hit ball percentage drop. In fact, these numbers have largely been the same since the beginning of July.

However, there may be signs that Pederson's plate discipline is starting to come around. The rookie has walked three times in each of the first two games of their series against the Phillies, this after walking just four times in his previous 90 PAs. Improved plate discipline will lead to better pitches, which should lead to a return of his power.

One of the biggest reasons why Pederson likely won't be sent down is his defense, which is still a tremendous asset. Given that, the odds of a demotion are not high, even if his batting average continues to crater. 

And when a player is as talented as he is, you can probably rest assured Pederson will figure things out sometime soon.