DETRTOIT -- Standing in the batter's box at Comerica Park on Friday, Joc Pederson looked different than he had just a few days before. It wasn't merely the swap of his home white jersey for the road gray -- Pederson was trying out an altered batting stance.In a top-and-bottom comparison
DETRTOIT -- Standing in the batter's box at Comerica Park on Friday, Joc Pederson looked different than he had just a few days before. It wasn't merely the swap of his home white jersey for the road gray -- Pederson was trying out an altered batting stance.
In a top-and-bottom comparison first circulated by Sports Illustrated's Kenny Ducey, there's a noticeable difference in how Pederson stands in against Chicago's Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday and against Detroit's Jordan Zimmermann in Friday's 8-5 win.
The three-day transformation shows Pederson bending his knees more, pulling his hands down to letter height (and farther away from his body) and leaning forward so his head starts at a lower position.
"He's more crouched, trying to get into his legs a little bit more," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "To potentially get him in a spot where ultimately his head lands ... [which] allows him to see the ball better."
Some players alter their batting stances without noticing, for better or worse. But Pederson's adjustment was a deliberate measure to limit his head movement as the pitcher goes through his delivery.
In previous games, while the pitcher started his delivery, Pederson stood almost straight up and moved his head forward and down while stepping with his front foot toward the ball. On Friday, Roberts explained, Pederson tried to start with his head in a place similar to where it would normally end up, thus allowing him to get a better read on the pitch coming in.
"I thought he took some good swings tonight," Roberts said. "And he hit one to the pull-side gap, which is good for him. Just missed another one, but I actually thought he took better swings tonight."
The immediate payoff was a fourth-inning RBI double to right-center, which Pederson drilled a projected 398 feet at a 108 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™. He turned on a top-of-the-zone fastball from Zimmermann and scorched it with a 19-degree launch angle. In his other two at-bats, swinging freely and aggressively as usual, Pederson popped up to the shortstop and flied out to right.
Given how Pederson's previous 25 games went -- he batted .106 with 14 strikeouts and a .242 slugging percentage -- it makes sense that he'd try something new at the plate. If Friday was in fact the first glimpse of his newfound stance, it's not the first time Pederson has played with his hitting mechanics.
In 2015, an All-Star rookie campaign for Pederson, MLB Network identified five variations of his swing. The biggest differences were his leg kick and hand placement, with his head often starting upright and moving before his swing.
Through work with hitting coaches Turner Ward and Tim Hyers, Pederson appears to be specifically working on keeping his head in a locked position as he's loading his swing. It might just be the tweak necessary for the young slugger to return to a form that yielded 25 or more homers in each of the previous two seasons. And that would help provide him playing time amid a crowded outfield that added Curtis Granderson on Friday.
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit who covered the Dodgers on Friday.