2018 Season Review: Left Field

Up next is left field, where the Dodgers rode two bounce-back players to combine into a perfectly middle-of-the-pack left field rotation.

——

Previous Entries

——

Really, impressively middle-of-the-pack. Those numbers aren’t bad by any means, but left field was one of the weaker positions for the Dodgers in 2018. While seven players played in left field in 2018 for the Dodgers, 574 of the 722 plate appearances came from one of two batters.

Joc Pederson

2018 stats – .248/.321/.522, .843 OPS, 126 wRC+, .354 wOBA, 19.2 K%, 9.0 BB%, 2.7 fWAR

Pederson was the left-handed side of the Dodgers’ left field platoon. Of Pederson’s 443 plate appearances in 2018, only 57 came against left-handed pitching. He’s got a pretty poor track record against lefties, and in that limited action last season he posted a .512 OPS. However, in 386 plate appearances against righties, Pederson OPS’d .893.

Pederson was quietly very good last season. Among hitters with 400 or more plate appearances, Pederson tied for the 40th-best wRC+, just ahead of guys like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Lorenzo Cain. The only Dodgers that posted a higher wRC+’s last year were Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Manny Machado.

Pederson seemingly transformed from a three true outcomes player to a well-rounded hitter (against righties, at least). Disregarding 18 games played in his rookie 2014 season, Pederson has seen his strikeout rate decline each season. Last season’s 19.2 strikeout rate was nearly two points lower than his previous low. His walk rate has also declined every season in the majors, although in a less extreme way.

While Pederson isn’t exactly Turner or Chris Taylor in this regard, his launch angle became more ideal in 2018. In his first two full major league seasons, Pederson hovered around a 13 degree launch angle. Last season it dropped to 10.2 degrees, and Pederson posted a career-high 46.6 percent ground ball rate. Last season, his average launch angle was 15.4 degrees. He hit the ball on the ground only 39.4 percent of the time, the lowest of his career.

Pederson’s minor league reputation of being a 30/30 threat hasn’t really come true in the majors, as he’s stolen 15 bases in four seasons. He stole one base in six attempts last season, which is less than ideal. However, Pederson led off 59 times last season and had a bit of success doing so, hitting eight leadoff dongs for the Dodgers last season. Francisco Lindor led baseball with nine leadoff dongs, and two other hitters hit eight. However, Pederson did so in only 59 leadoff plate appearances. Ronald Acuna hit eight in 66 plate appearances, and Lindor and Matt Carpenter (also hit eight) led off over 100 games.

While Pederson put together a good regular season, he came back down to earth in the postseason. He led off Game 1 of the NLDS with a home run and got a hit in each of the four games against the Braves. In 27 plate appearances after the NLDS, Pederson had four hits while striking out nine times and walking only once. Three of the five times Pederson got on base, he came around to score. He hit one homer in the World Series, in the third inning of the 18-inning Game 3.

Matt Kemp

2018 stats – .290/.338/.481, .818 OPS, 122 wRC+, .348 wOBA, 22.7 K%, 7.1 BB%, 1.6 fWAR

Somehow, Kemp was a Dodger again in 2018. He (surprisingly) was at spring training, and (surprisingly) made the Opening Day roster. I’m pretty sure I wrote some dumb thing about how the Dodgers should have kept Trayce Thompson instead.

Luckily, they didn’t. Kemp responded by posting his best offensive season since his last season as a Dodger: 2014. Kemp took 324 plate appearances before the All-Star Break. He posted a 137 wRC+ and a .310/.352/.522 triple slash, earning his first All-Star appearance since 2012.

Unfortunately, those great pre-break numbers and his total overall numbers means that he struggled a bit to finish the season. In 182 plate appearances after the break, Kemp posted a 97 wRC+ and a .255/.313/.406 triple slash. Kemp wasn’t always a strict platoon player, as he took nearly 100 more plate appearances against righties than lefties. He split time between left and right field, playing pretty much everyday until he stopped producing.

Like Pederson, Kemp’s launch angle increased after posting a low mark last year. In 2017, Kemp averaged an 8.2 degree launch angle and had a career-high 48.5 percent ground ball rate. In 2018, Kemp’s average launch angle increased to 15.8 degrees and he hit the ball on the ground only 35 percent of the time, the lowest mark of his 13-year career.

Kemp’s defense was not exactly good, but he was surprisingly playable in the outfield last season. It’s tough to categorize something as “the least bad it’s been”, but his defense was the least bad it’s been in a few years. Kemp’s -9 DRS and -7.6 DRS/150 were both the “best” numbers he’s posted since 2013.

Kemp only started five postseason games and struggled throughout October. Kemp reached base five times in 25 plate appearances and struck out six times. Two of his four hits went for extra bases, including one dong off Chris Sale in Game 1 of the World Series.

Others

Five others played games in left field last season. Taylor played 23 games in left, and Allan wrote about his season in the shortstop review. He’ll also write about Enrique Hernandez and Andrew Toles in the next review: center field. Muncy apparently played left field a couple times, and he was featured at first base. Alex Verdugo technically played more games in right field last season, so he’ll be in that review.

About Alex Campos

Alex Campos
I'm a writer that has blogged at a whole bunch of places about a whole bunch of sports. I was most recently writing for Chavez Ravine Fiends, but was also the former editor at Dodgers Way. I graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Marketing. At Long Beach, I covered the Dirtbags in the 2014 season as an assistant sports editor at the Daily 49er.