How Strong Is Joc Pederson?

Do you like pornography? You don’t have to answer that. Just, here’s some pornography, only of the type that…well, you’re still not supposed to watch at work, but you could at least get away with watching it with your parents:

That’s Joc Pederson, either befriending Coors Field or trying to assault it. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, it’s the longest home run of the year, although there is that Coors-related asterisk. Also yesterday, Pederson hit a different mammoth dinger. The day before, he hit a different mammoth dinger. Among those with at least six homers, Pederson has the greatest average distance. Strong hitter. Good rookie.

These are indicators of strength. And there are some other familiar ones. For example, Pederson is tied for second in isolated power, behind only Bryce Harper. He’s barely a percentage point off the lead in home runs per fly ball. The comparisons to Adam Dunn are being made for a reason — lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, lots of power. We know that Pederson has pop. But how else might we be able to think about this? Enter Statcast. Glorious Statcast!

Below, Pederson making an out, in Milwaukee:

pederson-out

A year ago, we would’ve just seen that and thought of it as a line out, and nothing more. Just a spot of bad luck. But now, of course, we have new information. And while Statcast hasn’t recorded every single Joc Pederson batted ball, it has recorded most of them, and out of those, the line drive above has the highest recorded exit velocity, at 114 miles per hour. Data, by the way, is and will be coming from Baseball Savant. This is Pederson making an out, and not hitting a home run, but measured just by speed, this was stronger. Batted-ball speed is most closely related to bat speed. Get to talking about results, and then you’re bringing in swing path, and so on.

Let’s now make some assumptions. Perhaps dangerous assumptions, but this whole post is just an experiment. Let’s say that this represents Pederson’s “peak” batted-ball velocity. Might not be true, but at least we have a decent sample on our hands. So we’ll pretend that Pederson tops out at 114. We could measure strength by comparing him to other top velocities. It’s no different than comparing the fastest fastballs. I mean, it kind of is — fastball velocity is all about the individual, and batted-ball velocity is about the individual and the pitch — but, like I said, assumptions.

So far, Statcast has recorded at least 50 batted balls for 255 different players. How many of those players have topped out at a velocity higher than 114? We’d be thinking of these as players with greater peak strength than Pederson, if only by a little.

Obviously, Giancarlo Stanton shows up with a higher ceiling. Probably no one stronger than Stanton. And there’s Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo, and Nelson Cruz. Among more surprising names, Will Venable topped out at 115. Yasmani Grandal, too. We find there are 14 players who have established ceilings north of 114. That’s 14 out of 255. So we could say Pederson ranks around the 94th percentile, based just on top velocity. Put another way, his strength would rank him in the upper twelfth of regular or semi-regular big-league hitters.

That’s good! If somewhat unsurprising. But we can dress Pederson up some more. His top velocity is impressive; his consistency is also impressive. This is a table with those 14 names, and Pederson. Shown is the rate with which they’ve hit batted balls within 10 miles per hour of peak speed:

Player Within 10mph%
Joc Pederson 32%
Giancarlo Stanton 27%
Jorge Soler 25%
Yasmani Grandal 24%
Miguel Cabrera 24%
Hanley Ramirez 24%
Carlos Gonzalez 22%
Mark Trumbo 19%
Ryan Braun 19%
Mike Trout 17%
Manny Machado 16%
David Peralta 15%
Will Venable 15%
Bryce Harper 13%
Nelson Cruz 8%

I know it’s sort of an arbitrary cutoff, but it indicates that Pederson spends a lot of time near his strength ceiling. So he’s consistently making quality contact. How about the top players in rate of batted balls hit at least 100 miles per hour?

  1. Giancarlo Stanton, 53% 100+
  2. Joc Pederson, 49%
  3. Brandon Belt, 44%
  4. Hanley Ramirez, 42%
  5. Josh Donaldson, 41%

How about the top players in rate of batted balls hit at least 100 miles per hour, in the air?

  1. Giancarlo Stanton, 41% 100+, air
  2. Joc Pederson, 38%
  3. Brandon Belt, 37%
  4. Paul Goldschmidt, 31%
  5. Ryan Howard, 29%

As Pederson said to Eno in an article that just went live today:

I don’t think about my hands too much. Just trying to hit the ball in the air. Hit the ball in the air!

Some of this, we could’ve done more simply. Right now, overall, Pederson ranks second in average batted-ball velocity. He’s in the top ten in our hard-hit rate. But Statcast offers so many ways to break this down. I think it’s interesting that Venable has achieved a higher peak speed than Pederson has. But it’s only by the slightest margin, and Venable doesn’t hit balls that hard very much. So Venable and Pederson might have similar strength ceilings, but what sets Pederson apart is that he’s able to hit balls hard a hell of a lot more often.

Which is why he has a 165 wRC+ despite an incredibly low contact rate. We discussed this some with George Springer a while back. When you make limited contact, you have to maximize the contact you do make, if you want to be a good hitter. Pederson is unquestionably maximizing. To what extent he keeps this up, I don’t know. A low contact rate always has to make you a little nervous. But there are guys who make it work, and Pederson couldn’t be off to a stronger start. In some ways, he’s statistically comparable to Adam Dunn. In other ways, he’s statistically comparable to Giancarlo Stanton. Pretty good hitters, those guys.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Robby
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Robby

Charley Steiner judges fly balls about as well as my cocker spaniel.

Dave
Guest
Dave

That is just a really rude thing to say about your cocker spaniel.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

Is it a 480 foot homer or a fly ball to the warning track?

Orel Sax
Member
Orel Sax

Nobody in the business can bring more drama to a routine fly ball than Charley Steiner. A common colloquialism among Dodger fans is to be “Steinered”, which happens when you get caught up in the crowd or broadcasters misjudgement over the distance of a fly ball.