“Patient” has been the buzz word of Joc Pederson’s entire career to this point. In 2015, then-Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn’t rush to kickstart his major league career when there were more than enough outfielders to go around on the LA roster.
Expectations weren’t sky high when he joined the team, and he ended up hitting .210 in 151 games with the club that year and making the All-Star team.
Multiple commentators that season cited Pederson’s patient approach at the plate as a reason for his success, even when that patience backfired.
This year the Dodgers had to be patient with him again when he struggled near the end of the year. He was sent back down to the minor leagues, where he continued to struggle with a low batting average and few extra-base hits.
It was so bad that by the end of the minor league season in September the team wasn’t even sure what next steps it would take with Joc. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wasn’t champing at the bit to give Pederson a chance just because of his past successes with the team.
The Dodgers called Pederson up shortly after they had an expanded roster to work with to see how he fared and it wasn’t much better — he hit only .105 in the majors in September with a .425 OPS.
With that performance, it wasn’t a guarantee that Pederson would make the postseason roster, and if he did he would be left-handed help off the bench. But he did make the roster, and made the World Series roster when Curtis Granderson was excluded, and what a payoff that patience proved to provide for LA.
Pederson has played in the last three games of the series against the Astros, going 3-for-9 and coming through in the clutch in big ways. None less huge than his home run on Saturday night that extended the Dodgers’ lead from 3-1 to 6-1, firmly putting the Astros away on his team’s way to evening the series.
He drew a walk against Lance McCullers Jr. that would lead to him being one of only three Dodgers to cross the plate in Game 3, he hit one of the eight home runs that peppered Game 2’s mania and tied the game at that point (even though LA would fall by a run), and he redeemed his three outs in Game 4 with the aforementioned late-game home run.
He only had two home runs from July 24 through Oct. 24, and he’s had two in the past three days of playoff action.
Patience all around, for years technically, and it worked for the team.
The patience required with Cody Bellinger’s struggles has been a much more short-term problem.
He’s been one of the strongest players for the Dodgers this season, and then slumped at one of the worst possible times a baseball player can slump. Well, probably the worst time a baseball player can slump.
He went 0-for-11 in the first three games of the series batting in the first half of the lineup and started Game 4 with two outs. Eight of those 13 at-bats also ended with him striking out.
Not great, Bob. Especially when the Dodgers could have really used his offense in Game 3 when the team only managed four hits as a unit.
It was getting so dire, in fact, that reporters asked Roberts if Bellinger needed a day off to deal with his struggles. LA’s skipper said that wasn’t something he saw happening and at batting practice on Saturday Bellinger had the wherewithal to make adjustments.
Roberts’, and the fans’, patience was rewarded with Cody becoming the youngest person to hit two doubles in the World Series, both of which were crucial to the Dodgers’ win. In the seventh, he double off the fence in deep left field and came around to score on a single two batters later.
Even better, he hit a double to center field that would break the tie in the top of the ninth inning, bringing Corey Seager around and moving Justin Turner to scoring position at third base.
It was what a lot of people in LA were waiting for, and their patience shouldn’t be ignored either. They got to set off fireworks for both players on Saturday night (or because they had a really fun Halloween party that was hopping — we don’t have crystal balls in the budget at SB Nation so I’m not actually sure of the situation in LA at that point) and watch two players that had struggled — one a bit longer than the other — not only reach their potential but surpass many people’s expectations for this particular game.
Pederson could have been left off the roster completely, or never returned to the Dodgers roster in September. Bellinger could have been forced to take a rest day and figure out his swing outside of batting practice, watching his teammates scrap for the win, but that didn’t happen either.
Patience might be a virtue, but not every player, team, or manager in the history of baseball has been known to practice it day-in and day-out during the season.
Thank goodness for the Dodgers that in this case they took a breath, waited a beat, and that that tactic actually worked out for them.