Saturday, July 18, 2021
After what seems like years of talk, the Braves finally went out and got their guy. And though acquiring outfielder Joc Pederson in July of 2021 perhaps isn’t as exciting or headline-worthy as it would’ve been… say… one or two years ago, when he was coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he slugged 25 or more homers (in each of 2018 and ’19, respectively), but the fact remains: Atlanta has received a damn good hitter and a player that can certainly help this lineup.
And in his second game as a Brave, and just his fourth PA with the team, after coming from the Cubs literally just a day ago, Pederson did something he has yet to do during the 2021 season: he slugged a home run versus a left-handed pitcher. As part of a six-run fourth inning by the Braves and following a two-run double by pitcher Max Fried, the 30-year-old Pederson blasted a 1-0, 90-mph pitch into the Braves bullpen.
Welcome to Atlanta, Joc.
Pederson also singled in the eighth, in what was essentially garbage time at that point, finishing the night 2 for 5 with two RBI and two runs scored. But that fourth-inning home run has just stuck with me. I already mentioned Pederson’s splits in an earlier post and wrote that they haven’t been as drastic this season, at least not in terms of overall offense. Sure, until last night, Pederson had hit all 11 of his homers versus righty-pitchers, but it’s not as if he has been unplayable against southpaws in 2021. In fact, Pederson’s AVG for the year was higher against lefties and his wRC+ was the exact same. Following Saturday’s game against the Rays, Pederson’s wRC+ versus righties and lefties stands at 94 and 105, respectively, with also just a 17-point difference in wOBA. What is telling though is that Pederson is hitting the ball harder versus southpaws this season. And though he’s faced that flavor of pitching only around 30% of the time in 2021, the difference is pretty significant.
Pederson’s Hard% vs. RHP – 34.0%
Pederson’s Hard% vs. LHP – 41.7%
Once it was announced that the Braves had traded prospect Bryce Ball in exchange for Pederson, I immediately thought the deal was a good one, but deep down I just assumed that it probably meant another trade would eventually follow considering Pederson’s struggles against same-handed pitching. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case anymore. Pederson could easily be Atlanta’s everyday right fielder, and a solid lead-off hitter against both righties and lefties. His numbers this year show that he doesn’t have to sit the bench when the Braves face southpaws.
And if Saturday night was any indication as to what Pederson can provide for the Braves lineup on a nightly basis, this should be a fun second-half to the season.