The sport of baseball has three true outcomes, a concept that’s unfolded as the era of advanced metrics has gained mainstream popularity within the game and amongst its fans.

These outcomes, based on the fact that defense has zero effect on them, are the home run, the walk and the strikeout. These are the only results determined by the batter and pitcher alone, not counting for things like pitch framing or floating strike zones, of course.

In 2015, the three true outcomes found their poster boy in Joc Pederson. The Los Angeles Dodgers rookie center fielder burst into his first full season as a power-hitting strikeout machine with a keen eye and awareness of the zone. This led to plenty of home runs, even more strikeouts, a high on-base percentage, a starting spot in last month’s All-Star Game (because of injuries to other outfielders) and front-running the National League’s Rookie of the Year race.

Then July happened, and the first part of August followed. And two of the three true outcomes virtually disappeared from Pederson’s arsenal, as did nearly all of his value.

His fourth outcome became a drop from the top to the bottom of the batting order, and the fifth was a benching. The sixth, a stint back in the minors, has yet to be discussed by the Dodgers brass, but if Pederson’s trends don’t shift soon, his electric start will give way to a debilitating liability for a team with World Series aspirations.

“At some point, if you hit .220 and you don’t hit homers then there’s other things that you try to do,” manager Don Mattingly told reporters last week. “You have to make organizational decisions.

“I don’t think there’s anybody trying to make those right now. And there’s nobody thinking Joc won’t hit. We all believe in Joc still and what he’s going to be able to do. It’s going to be a little bit of a learning process for him this year too.”

The first part of that process was euphoric. Pederson had a 1.057 OPS, .461 OBP, four home runs, 17 walks and 22 strikeouts in 77 April plate appearances. In May, he hit nine homers and drew 16 more walks.

Overall, from April through June, the 23-year-old had a .911 OPS, hit 20 home runs, had a .384 OPB and a 94/55 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also had a 155 wRC+, a .390 wOBA and a .282 ISO. All three of those marks put him among the game’s elite hitters and MVP candidates.

In July, his OPS was .488. He struck out 31 times and walked four. His OBP plummeted to .229. His wRC+ sank to 38, his wOBA to .211 and his ISO to .090. Him being in the lineup actually cost the Dodgers a half a win, according to FanGraphs.

Pederson also stopped hitting the ball hard in July. His percentage of hard-hit balls dropped 17 percent, and his soft contact rose 13. His line-drive rate dropped three percent, his fly-ball rate dropped seven and his ground-ball rate rose by 10 (h/t Beyond The Box Score for those comparisons).

Those numbers led to Mattingly dropping Pederson from the leadoff spot, where he hit for most of the first half, to the bottom half of the order near the end of the month. Then he benched Pederson for a couple of games two weekends ago. However, Pederson went hitless and struck out three times without a walk in his return. It was his third consecutive game of that ilk as he faded from Rookie of the Year discussions.

Pederson currently has one home run in his last 128 plate appearances after going 0-for-3 Sunday. The only power he’s shown in that time was the energizing show he put on during the Home Run Derby to finish runner-up.

“A lot of times you don’t realize that you’re [pressing],” Mattingly said of Pederson‘s benching. “You see so much more when you don’t have to try to perform that day. Young guys get caught up and their mind starts going over all kinds of stuff.

“Sometimes you can’t see the forest from in the trees. You get too close to it and you don’t see the big picture. I want him to see the big picture.”

The smaller, immediate picture is that Pederson is getting back one of the true outcomes. In his last 23 plate appearances, he has walked nine times, once intentionally, and struck out three times. He still is not showing much power, though.

Pederson does not rate as an outstanding defensive center fielder by the metrics, but the Dodgers still value him as a critical piece of their up-the-middle defense. And considering they don’t have great replacement options at that position and that it is nearly mid-August, optioning him to the minors seems like a long shot.

“You don’t do anything. Keep going,” Mattingly told reporters over the weekend. “Now is not the time to start messing with our club and what we’ve been doing all year. We’ve been a club that plays good defense up the middle.

“We’re trying to win games at this point. He’s been our center fielder all year long. We know who he is. We know what he’s going to be.”

For now, the Dodgers are surviving with Pederson being almost exactly what he wasn’t in the season’s first three months. Going forward and into the postseason, assuming their season lasts that long, their offense desperately needs Pederson to return to being the showcase player for the three true outcomes.

The Dodgers can live with the negative outcome if the other two positive ones are present. If only the negative is there, as has been the case for most of the second half, Pederson will be more of a liability than a help to the ultimate goal.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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