There was a lot going on in Saturday night’s game in Miami, which was dominated by Rich Hill’s quest for perfection and manager Dave Roberts making a decision that made him sick to his stomach. But lost in the hoopla was Joc Pederson jump starting the offense in the 5-0 win, putting together a stellar sophomore season.
Pederson started the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run in the fifth inning against Marlins starter Tom Koehler, and added another solo shot in the seventh against reliever Brian Ellington.
It was the 16th multi-homer game by a Dodger in 2016, and the third time for Pederson, along with May 17 and June 14. He has 22 home runs on the season.
But that wasn’t all for Pederson, who also singled and walked in the game. In September, Pederson is 8-for-18 (.444) with four home runs and five walks.
On the season, Pederson is hitting .249/.348/.499 with a .360 wOBA and a 129 wRC+, the latter fourth among major league center fielders with at least 300 plate appearances in 2016.
If Pederson can increase his slugging percentage just a tick, he would join a select company. There have only been five Dodgers to slug .500 or better in a season while playing at least 80 games in center field — Duke Snider (1950, 1953-57), Johnny Frederick (1929-30), Matt Kemp (2011-12), Lon Koenecke (1934) and Pete Reiser (1941).
It’s a far cry from last year, when Pederson started out hot but struggled mightily over the final four months. He hit .203/.308/.329 in September, and .181/.326/.350 in his final 102 games of 2015.
So far in 2016, Pederson’s worst OPS for any month is .748, in August. It has been a much steadier, consistent season.
Pederson revamped his swing, and it’s paying off. His contact percentage is up from 66.6% in 2015 to 75.9% in 2016, and with the increase in contact he hasn’t lost any power. His isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) is .250 in 2016, compared to .206 last year.
To put that in perspective, only 12 times has an LA Dodger posted a .250 ISO in at least 400 plate appearances, and the only one in the last 10 years to do it was Kemp in 2011.
Bill Plunkett wrote a great profile of Pederson and his changing swing for the Orange County Register on Thursday, including Pederson describing his mechanics:
"I had to change my bat path," Pederson said. "I had to change the entry angle and bat path and what position my body was in. I’m still not satisfied with where I’m at. It’s encouraging that there’s been some improvements. But I think there’s still a lot more in the tank. I think hitting is very mechanical and if you’re in a position to hit you’re going to hit the ball hard more often."
The improvement shown already is impressive, and if the 24-year-old Pederson hits three more home runs in 2016 he will join Snider and Kemp as the only Dodgers with two seasons of at least 25 home runs through their age-25 season.
Dodgers (80-61) vs. Marlins (70-72)
Time: 10:10 a.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA