Why Jed Hoyer feels Joc Pederson brings ‘different’ strengths to Cubs than Kyle Schwarber
When fans take a quick glance at the stats of the recently departed Kyle Schwarber and newly acquired Joc Pederson, they’ll see two players that appear to be a lot alike.
But Cubs’ president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer knows that isn’t necessarily the case.
“They’re different hitters,” Hoyer said Monday morning. “I think when you look at the aggregate numbers, they look fairly similar, but I think their strengths are different.”
For Pederson, that strength lies in an area he has improved over the course of his career: his strikeout rate. When he debuted in 2015, Pederson had a high strikeout rate of 29.1%, which ranked in the bottom 4 percentile of baseball. Every year since then, Pederson has lowered that rate, dipping to 19.4% in 2018 and 21.6% in 2019. He saw that number creep up to 24.6% in 2020, but that was in a smaller sample size of just 138 plate appearances. Schwarber has a career strikeout rate of 28%.
That’s an area where the Cubs have struggled, especially in 2020. As a team, the Cubs had a strikeout rate of 25.7%, the fourth-highest rate in baseball. Couple those improving strikeout rates with the hitter-friendly park that is Wrigley Field and Hoyer sees the potential for Pederson to have a big season in 2021.
“I think he’s a good fit for the ballpark and I think he does some things that our lineup hasn’t been great at,” Hoyer said.
Chicago also offers Pederson the perfect opportunity to prove a point.
In Los Angeles, Pederson served as a platoon player, with the Dodgers exploiting the lefty against right-handed pitchers. Pederson split time in the Dodgers’ loaded outfield that included the likes of Mookie Betts, AJ Pollock, Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernández and Chris Taylor.
With the Cubs, he has the opportunity to prove he can be an everyday outfielder for a big-league team. That’s why he took initiative in his free agency and reached out to Hoyer directly about being part of the Cubs’ 2021 plans.
“I think he felt he didn’t put up the numbers he wanted to last year,” Hoyer said. “I think he felt like he was being painted with a brush he didn’t want to be painted with. His goal is to find a place where he can go out and prove that.”
The Cubs were glad to give Pederson that platform. Both Hoyer and manager David Ross spoke to Pederson over the phone and told him they were ready to pencil him in as an everyday player.
“I think when we give [Pederson] the day off it’ll be against a tough lefty or something like that,” Hoyer said. “But otherwise, we’ll let you come to the ballpark every day, knowing that your name’s gonna be in there and that’s what he wanted.”