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Was Joc Pederson the Right Choice?

Let’s take a moment and talk about what the Joc Pederson signing really means for the Dbacks and take the emotion out of it. I know some of you are struggling right now since much of the sporting media has built up JD Martinez and Jorge Soler so much. If you were basing your emotion purely off of wanting to see Soler hit more nukes to Gonzo’s Grill, let me also remind you of the 2019 Home Run Derby slugfest between Pederson and Vlad Guerrero Jr. when they went to sudden death and each hit 40 home runs in the round. Point being Joc has plenty of juice and can absolutely mash. But let’s take a step back to reality and take a more balanced look at the choice the Hazen and Kendrick just made.

With all that being said, it was the last move for a DH that seems to have divided some fans because of the other "choices". Choices being up for debate here because we really don’t have any idea how much money was really left to spend. Was it really an option for Hazen and Kendrick to sign someone more expensive than Pederson? We won’t really have any way of knowing. But for the sake of conversation, let’s assume Hazen and co. had the funds sufficient to sign any of the designated hitters outside of Ohtani. The man, the myth, the legend Jack Sommers created a list before the Pederson signing highlighting options with their projections moving forward. It is a good read and I encourage you all to not only read that but all of his material. In terms of the projections, I believe they are very relevant considering ideally you are paying a player for their future performance and not what they did in the past. But I wanted to take those comparisons a little further and look into why the projections are what they are.

In the weeks leading into the Pederson signing, I kept looking at the numbers for JD Martinez and Jorge Soler. I found myself trying to get excited about having either one of them and I was having a hard time doing so. What bothered me most was the consistency or rather lack there of from Soler and Martinez. Especially when you consider that its most likely going to take a multi-year deal. To better show this, lets look back at the past 2 seasons:

Last 2 Seasons Stats

PA

wRC+

HR

PA/HR

K%

WAR

JD Martinez

1075

126

49

21.9

27.30%

3.1

Jorge Soler

886

116

49

18.1

26.10%

2.3

Joc Pederson

858

128

38

22.6

22%

2.7

The first thing that stands out to me when we look just 1 year beyond 2023, Pederson more than holds his own against the other 2. While the homeruns are slightly less (we will get to that more a little later), the rate at which he’s hitting them is in the same neighborhood. The other surprise for me here is that despite Pederson being only a "platoon hitter" he has accumulated more WAR during that time as well as a pretty similar amount of plate appearances. And lastly the K% being much lower is a big one here for me especially when you consider we added Eugenio Suarez. Having 2 of your main power bats with K% at 30% would start to change the identity of this team a little bit for me.

What this table highlights going back 2 seasons is more of the consistency each player brings. What do they look like more year to year. The question Hazen should be asking is what is the player likely to do for me next season. JD was 1 season removed from being a 34 Y/O DH only who in 596 PA hit only 16 HR and Soler was only 1 season removed from batting .207 in 300 PA and only hitting 13 HR. Didn’t that bother anyone else? Not to mention we have seen this many times where guys’ performance seems to rise in walk years with impending free agency. Are either of those guys you want to sign to multi-year deals?

Park Factors

Pederson has played the past 2 seasons while playing in one of the most pitcher friendly parks especially being a left handed hitter. In terms of Statcast’s Park Factor, Oracle Park ranked 25th for a left handed hitter while Chase field was actually above average at 13th and just 1 out of the top 7.

Chase Field can be summed up by players who have pull power tend to see a favorable bump while players who hit more of their bombs to center see a pretty dramatic drop off in home runs. Luckily for us in 2024, statcast allows us to look at a players batted balls in another stadium. Because this tool can take the wall height and the distance of the center field wall at Chase into consideration, I wanted to see how each of their swings would’ve fared at Chase the past 2 seasons. Technology is a cool thing .

Player

Actual

x-HR

Difference

JD Martinez

49

57

8

Jorge Soler

49

46

-3

Joc Pederson

38

45

7

The biggest benefactor of hitting at Chase was surprisingly JD Martinez. This was largely due to the fact that in 2022 as a member of the Red Sox and he was a victim of the Green Monster. But also as I expected, Chase Field would really hurt Soler as much of his power comes to the center of the field where he would be introduced to our own green monster. Joc should see a nice bump hitting at Chase.

Signings Don’t Happen in a Vacuum

Another thing I’ve heard talked about is the amount of right-handed pitching in the division. This cant be overlooked. Even though the schedules are ‘balanced’ games against division opponents still carry so much more weight. I thought it was interesting Hazen’s comments a few weeks ago about handedness not mattering as much in the DH role as we have been so conditioned to having too many Left-handed hitters. That being said when the combination of the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants contain only 1 left handed starter I can understand Hazen’s thinking here. Given how things shook out this offseason it was likely the preference of Hazen to get a lefty. As the folks at PHNX also pointed out, the Dbacks were actually positioned better against lefty’s than righty’s. Not an ideal place to be if this is how our biggest intra division rivals will be matching up if the season started today:

Rival

Left Handed Starters

Dodgers

1

Padres

0

Giants

0

Not really sure why many Dbacks fans were so set on a right handed hitter? Which matchup would you like to have in 14 out of 15 games against a division rival?

Splits Against RHP Last 2 Seasons

Player

PA

wRC+

HR

OPS

JD Martinez

802

115

35

0.794

Jorge Soler

682

102

29

0.743

Joc Pederson

749

133

35

0.842

Good thing Hazen and Kendrick are smarter than we are. Martinez and Soler’s wRC+ of 159 and 160 against left handed pitching doesn’t do much for us in 14 out of 15 games.

What Pederson Brings to the Clubhouse

One of my biggest concerns with Pederson was how well he would fit into the "Connected Team" mantra of this team from last year. Interestingly Joc actually talks about this in one of the Giants team ‘Day in the life’ videos from last season. Essentially echoing the idea that championships cant be bought but more importantly are due to the chemistry in a clubhouse. I thought that was very encouraging.

In addition, I think Joc will also be a great mentor to some of the young players on this team coming off their playoff success. He was also a player who enjoyed success early in his career in the postseason. He should be able to relate to a lot of the guys and what they may be feeling going into this season. I know this isn’t the be all end all when signing a player, but Hazen and Lovullo were quick to talk about the clubhouse presence with other players they have acquired and I don’t think it should be overlooked.

In Conclusion

I will admit, after cheering against Pederson for all these years, my initial reaction to the signing was less than what I had hoped. However after looking at the data, I think the Dbacks made the right call signing Joc Pederson. If they had signed Soler I would’ve been very worried about which version we were going to get, and I would’ve been drawn to his track record of having a good season and then falling off the map. If we would have signed JD Martinez I would’ve been kept awake at night wondering why we just paid a 36 YO player the money we did when he is just a year removed from almost 600 PA’s and only 16 HR’s. Both of which we would have likely been tied into for multiple years. Neither of those situations would have made me feel good either. High degree of buyer beware. Add to it the fact that for the Dbacks to have success this season, they are going to have to put up offense against right-handed pitching. I am now a big fan of this move and I think we all should be.

I think it also needs to be addressed, the Dbacks had glaring weaknesses in 2023 despite making it all the way to the World Series. It’s not often a team can make it that far while not having a starting pitcher, a 3rd baseman, or a designated hitter. Not to mention, they were also losing their left fielder to free agency leaving yet another hole to fill. In a span of 3 months, Hazen was able to address every single one of the 2023 team’s weaknesses without having to trade a single prospect. Let that sink in. For middle market teams to be competitive and stay competitive they need to maintain a strong farm system. I wouldn’t have doubted Hazen and Kendrick if they had to part with some of their top prospects to address some of the weaknesses. Especially in a market where every team was after starting pitching and the outfield market was weak. Taking a step back to appreciate where we are as an organization heading into 2024 should give all of us reason to be proud.