PHILADELPHIA -- Joc Pederson had a 1.057 OPS in April. He had an .868 OPS for May and June. He has a .500 OPS since July 1.
As Pederson's performance has leveled off and then dipped, the Los Angeles Dodgers have learned a few things about their rookie center fielder and how the rest of the league views him. They haven't changed their opinion of him or what he is going to become. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the topic of demoting Pederson, batting .222 entering Wednesday's game, has never come up in discussions with the front office.
"He's part of what we do. We made a conscious decision to be a better defensive club this year and he's a big part of that up the middle,” Mattingly said. "At some point, if you hit .220 and you don't hit homers, then there are other things you try to do, you have to make organizational decisions, but I don't think there's anybody trying to make those right now. There's nobody who thinks Joc can't hit.”
Mattingly sees a pattern with how pitchers approach Pederson lately. Those with high-end stuff tend to go right after him, aware of his reputation for taking walks. Pitchers with more marginal stuff tend to pitch carefully. Journeyman right-hander Jerome Williams walked him three times Tuesday night.
With another struggling Dodgers hitter, the pattern is more monotonous, Mattingly believes. Pitchers simply aren't throwing Alex Guerrero strikes since his hot start. Guerrero, who had barely played in the major leagues before this season, hit .310 with nine home runs through May 25. Since, he is batting .155 with two home runs.
The Dodgers viewed Guerrero as the primary backup to third baseman Justin Turner, but his struggles have them considering trying Enrique Hernandez at third base at some point in the next week. Alberto Callaspo, batting .226, started at third base Wednesday. Turner, on the 15-day disabled list with a skin infection on his right leg, is expected to return Aug. 11.
"You are what you eat. If you don't swing at strikes, it's hard to hit,” Mattingly said of Guerrero. "In a sense, the league's not throwing him any strikes and he's continuing to swing at this point, so he's going to have to basically get himself strikes to hit.”