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By Jon Weisman
In 1993, perhaps the most impressive rookie hitter in Dodger history, 24-year-old Mike Piazza, had a .354 on-base percentage and .520 slugging percentage in April.
In 2015, 23-year-old Joc Pederson has a .458 on-base percentage and .556 slugging percentage in April.
And also, this:
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Pederson, born barely four months before Piazza made his Major League debut in 1992, again rewarded the Dodgers’ faith in him entering this season, hitting a double and a home run Monday (before adding his requisite walk) in Los Angeles’ 8-3 victory over San Francisco.
Even accounting for the small benefit Pederson has gained from batting eighth, it grows harder almost by the day to deny the impact he can have on a game. It was Pederson who kept the Dodgers from falling behind, Pederson who had the biggest hit of their four-run third inning, Pederson who delivered the big insurance run in the sixth.
After hitting into five double plays in their first seven innings against Tim Lincecum this year — including a pair of line-drive first-inning twin killings last week and this — the Dodgers finally unloaded on the Giants righty in the third, following a walk with four singles and Pederson’s double to right to take a 4-0 lead.
Starting pitcher Brett Anderson was cruising with two out in the fifth, having retired eight batters in a row and 13 of 16 overall (aided by his own first-inning double play, an 8-6-3 of beauty that began with Pederson’s running catch in deep center), but then Anderson suddenly ran aground. He walked Brandon Crawford on a full-count pitch, gave up three consecutive hits and was chased from the game, just like that.
Angel Pagan’s RBI infield single off Carlos Frias cut the Dodger lead to 4-3, and a walk to Buster Posey loaded the bases. But Justin Maxwell, who has come from relative oblivion to cause the Dodgers all kinds of trouble this year — including a diving catch robbing Jimmy Rollins of what would have been two RBI in the second inning — grounded out on a comebacker, and the Dodgers escaped the inning.
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Then in the bottom of the sixth, Pederson knocked his third homer of the season to double the Dodgers’ comfort room, before walking in the eighth to help set up Justin Turner’s three-run pinch-hit homer that busted things wide open.
The period where pitchers adjust to Pederson and he has to adjust back certainly awaits, but considering that there was supposed to be a learning curve for the rookie outfielder and that any offense he was to provide at the outset of the season would be gravy, it’s hard not to reiterate how impressive he’s been.
“We just think Joc’s gonna keep improving,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s got a really good eye, and he’s going to strike out less as time goes on as he sees pitchers and knows how they’re attacking him and how to set himself up. I think he’s gonna get better.”