The definition of a slugger can be questionable, but Joc Pederson almost certainly fits: four seasons over 25 homers, three seasons with an OPS + of 125 or more, and an average exit speed that consistently exceeds the league average.
Pederson’s power numbers have lagged behind this season, but on Tuesday he reminded everyone of the damage he can do, succeeding twice in a 4-3 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.
In his first 29 games (101 at bat), Pederson had only hit one homerun. He hit his second of the year on Friday, then doubled again against Pittsburgh. First, Pederson hit a massive solo shot in the third inning to put the Cubs on the board (they had called 3-0 at the time). Then in the fifth, Pederson dug a low slider and sent it over the center wall for a two-point shot, which tied the game. Both bullets left the yard with exit speeds exceeding 102 mph.
Now in his eighth season, Pederson has managed 5.1% of his plate appearances (the MLB average in this span is 3.0%). But as of Tuesday, Pederson’s home run rate this year was just 1.6%.
Pederson still hits the ball hard – his average exit speed of 92.1 mph and his 50% hit rate in the 87th and 86th percentiles, respectively – but his results to show are limited. Now that is starting to change.
Pederson’s home pair, plus a simple RBI beating Anthony Rizzo’s quarterbacks, provided enough offense to support Jake Arrieta and the Cubs’ electric enclosure. The Chicago relievers haven’t allowed an earned run in their last 29 2/3 innings.