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Joc-tober: Pederson reclaims role with LA

Outfielder swings hot bat in Fall Classic after rocky season
October 30, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- There's no better time for redemption than the World Series, and that's exactly what's happened for Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson against the Astros. He's redeemed himself.On Aug. 19, the Dodgers acquired Curtis Granderson from the Mets and optioned Pederson to the Minor Leagues. There's a good chance

LOS ANGELES -- There's no better time for redemption than the World Series, and that's exactly what's happened for Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson against the Astros. He's redeemed himself.
On Aug. 19, the Dodgers acquired Curtis Granderson from the Mets and optioned Pederson to the Minor Leagues. There's a good chance that if Granderson had played up to expectations, Pederson might not have made it back this year.
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Granderson didn't and was left off the World Series roster. In his stead, Pederson has emerged as one of the top feel-good stories of the best-of-seven Series that the Dodgers trail, 3-2, heading into a must-win Game 6 tonight at Dodger Stadium.
The lefty-swinging Pederson will be in the lineup again against Houston right-hander Justin Verlander, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said without hesitation on Monday. And no kidding. Pederson is slashing .364/.462/1.091 against Astros pitching with a pair of homers, four RBIs and a 1.552 OPS.
Pederson's first homer of the Series came off Verlander and tied Game 2 at home in the fifth inning. His ninth-inning three-run shot at Minute Maid Park off reliever Joe Musgrove blew open Game 4.
It's a tale of two seasons. Compare that with Pederson's slash line of .212/.331/.407, 11 homers, 35 RBIs and a .738 OPS in 102 regular-season games.
"This year has been an interesting year. I've had some ups and downs," Pederson said Sunday. "To be able to bounce back and help the team and hopefully win a World Series, it means a lot."
What changed? When Pederson returned from playing 20 games and batting .167 at two Minor League levels, he worked with hitting coach Turner Ward and made major adjustments at the plate. Pederson still staggered to the end of the season -- 4-for-22 after the Dodgers brought him back from the Minors on Sept. 6 -- and was left off the roster for their sweep of the D-backs in a National League Division Series.

Returning against the Cubs in the NL Championship Series, Pederson was used sparingly and had only a double in five at-bats as the Dodgers won in five games. Now he's gone 4-for-11 against the Astros and is a legitimate threat.
"He's made a mechanical change," Roberts said. "When you see him now, he's more set in his legs. He and the hitting guys made that adjustment about a month and half ago. And I think, for him, it's just to focus on every pitch. During the regular season when he's not going well, he expands and gets out of the strike zone. What we're seeing now is him staying in the strike zone."
The Dodgers had lost enough confidence in Pederson that they made the swap with the Mets for Granderson, despite the fact that the day of the trade, they were 53 games over .500 and led the NL West by 20 games over the D-backs.
Roberts said at the time that the addition of the veteran Granderson would make the Dodgers better come postseason. But Granderson never gained traction, batting .161 for the Dodgers in 36 regular-season games and 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts and no walks in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers were concerned about Pederson because his entire game had deteriorated, Roberts said back then. Pederson is considered one of the elite center fielders in the game, but defensive metrics revealed he wasn't catching up to the ball the way he used to.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, his range factor per nine innings had slipped from 2.28 in 2016 to 1.81 in '17. And Statcast™ listed him 304th in the Majors this season with a minus-8 catch probability.
Roberts attributed that to Pederson carrying too much weight. But weight shouldn't have had anything to with his hitting numbers.
Pederson batted .241 with nine homers and 26 RBIs during the first half of the season, .162 with two homers and nine RBIs during the second half. He was 6-for-59 in the 28 games he played for Los Angeles during the last two months of the season.
Pederson, who hit 51 homers from 2015-16, was asked what he learned about himself.
"A lot," he said. "The game will teach you some things that you have to make adjustments to. It's a process, and it's all part of it. Keep your head on straight. Stay positive and keep grinding."

Even when he's not in the starting lineup, Pederson has been a huge cheerleader this Series, dancing and prancing around the dugout. For Sunday night's wild 13-12 loss to the Astros in 10 innings, Pederson was not in the starting lineup. But when he came off the bench to pinch-hit in the sixth, Pederson drew a walk. He then doubled high off the wall to the opposite field in the eighth inning and scored on Corey Seager's double.
"These are the best at-bats I've seen him take over the last two years. It's a credit to his focus and obviously that mechanical change," Roberts said.
The second-year manager also thinks Pederson's time in the Minors was just the chastening experience he needed, much like Yasiel Puig's demotion for 23 games last season. Remember, Pederson is only 25.
"I think it forced him to mature as a baseball player," Roberts said. "I think it forced him to mature as a man. He's a guy who had so much success early, and to be optioned to the Minor Leagues and telling him, 'What you're doing now is not good enough,' it was a wake-up call for him, and he responded admirably."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.