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Joc Pederson and the July slump

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are in New York to play the Mets for four games, which means four games of facing really good pitching. That means Joc Pederson will have his hands full trying to bust out of his July slump.

Which brings us to a mailbag question. From Bob D:

Why is Joc Pederson's inability to hit since May ignored by the sportswriters covering the Dodgers? I know he got a hit today and drove in an important run, but the guy has been awful and nothing is being written about it. I really like Joc and how hard he plays, but the strikeouts have become ridiculous and I find myself almost cheering when he just puts the ball in play. I'm also very tired of these out of town play by play guys always talking about how it's either a K, walk, or homer for Joc. Can't remember his last homer, actually.

Pederson's last home run was June 29. He has gone 18 games at 77 plate appearances without a home run since.

He hit .222 in June, which is usually the depth of his offensive performance depicted by Dodgers radio broadcasts, but he also had a .379 on-base percentage and .495 slugging percentage during the month, so pardon me if I quibble with Bob's "inability to hit since May" comment.

Pederson had an RBI single in Wednesday's win over the Braves, but even with that Pederson is hitting just .156/.229/.203 in July, 10-for-64 with three doubles, three RBI to go with 21 strikeouts and only four walks.

"I don't care about the strikeouts as much. I know he'd like to strike out less, and everyone would like to see him strike out less in the Dodgers camp, but he's a major threat hitting leadoff. Just a major power threat. You can't ease into a game with him," said MLB on TBS play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson, who will call Sunday's series finale in New York. "When you have a guy who can hit bombs right out of the gate, it puts the starting pitcher in a tough spot. Then he can play run producer."

Pederson leads the majors with 115 strikeouts this season, on pace for 194, which would shatter the Dodgers franchise record of 170, set by Matt Kemp in 2010.

"He's leading the major leagues in strikeouts. Every broadcast is going to talk about it, we're going to talk about it. But strikeouts are different now," Anderson said. "He's got a strong on-base percentage, especially for a guy just getting into the league. He's got a slugging percentage up over .450. That's solid for a first-year guy."

That's really what it comes down to right now for Pederson. Even with his slump, he's hitting .227/.356/.463 on the season. He has a better on-base percentage and better slugging percentage than Howie Kendrick, and more RBI (41 to 40) despite Pederson hitting first or eighth for 76 starts and Kendrick hitting third or fourth in 61 starts. Nobody is wondering what's wrong with Kendrick.

Obviously, the longer Pederson's slump continues the more worrisome it becomes. But it's certainly not for lack of trying. He works diligently with hitting coach Mark McGwire on his swing and approach. And even with the four-walk July he is tops on the team with 59 walks, 15 more than any other Dodger, and on pace for 100 on the season.

Tyler Kepner profiled Pederson on Thursday in the New York Times:

"The thing is trying to understand when a pitcher is trying to pitch around you and not give you anything to hit," McGwire said. "Instead of getting yourself out, accept those walks, and don’t try to force the issue. That’s the way, at this level, you’ll knock down your strikeouts."

Pederson said something similar, stressing the importance of reading the pitcher’s intentions. But he does not sound eager to cut down on his swing to slap more singles. Pederson wants to maximize damage when he connects.

"I like to slug," he said. "I take aggressive swings. I swing and miss because of it, and I think I still have a lot to improve."

Pederson and the Dodgers will face 42-year-old Bartolo Colon in the series opener. Left-handed batters are hitting .307/.320/.453 against Colon this season. Might Pederson break out offensively starting Thursday?

Possibly, but there is another reason why Pederson is a fixture in the lineup even with his offensive struggles of late.

"I'm okay with his swing. He is so entertaining, man," Anderson said. "We all tend to fall in love with the offense, but to have a center fielder who can go get them and make the right throw, keep runners to one base instead of two, that's huge, especially in the playoffs. That's where my focus will be this weekend, and people will start to zero in on what he brings to the Dodgers every day."

Anderson will be on the call of this Sunday’s MLB on TBS telecast between the Dodgers and Mets at 10 a.m. PT. The game will be seen locally in the Los Angeles market.

Game info

Time: 4:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network