“I think you’re aware of it, just in the back of your head,” he said. “But you’ve gotta just trust your ability.” – Those are comments from Cubs outfielder Joc Pederson … on his attempts to grow a mustache this month. OK, I kid, I kid. But they could be!
If you look very closely, it’s coming along:
I think Joc Pederson is trying to grow a mustache. pic.twitter.com/6z91FvTr5U
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) May 20, 2021
The greatest @MLB mustaches of all time:
1. Joc Pederson pic.twitter.com/NtupZ6mUpI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 25, 2021
That comment was actually about Pederson’s slow start to the season offensively. But as a fellow below-average mustache grower (35 wMG+), I can feel Pederson’s pain. And, apparently, he’s heard the haters: “Don’t come at me like that,’’ he said. “Look at that thing. Sorry, I can’t grow a great one. This is all I’ve got. It’s hard work. It’s there, though. I need the right lighting.”
Even his wife is giving him the business: “She’s on me,” Pederson said with a laugh via the Chicago Sun Times. “I better not go 0-fer.” Or he’ll have to shave it off.
So, while, no, he may not be Andrew Chafin out there in the mustache department, Joc Pederson shouldn’t change a thing right now, because he is absolutely killing it at the plate. Including last night’s two-homer (plus a double) performance against the Pirates, Pederson is slashing .267/.343/.431 for the year, which is 14% better than the league average hitter, tucked neatly between Matt Duffy and Willson Contreras on the Cubs wRC+ rankings this season.
Cubs Offensive Leaders (min. 100 PAs):
1. Kris Bryant (168 wRC+)
2. Javy Baez (121 wRC+)
3. Anthony Rizzo (121 wRC+)
4. Willson Contreras (119 wRC+)
5. Joc Pederson (114 wRC+)
6. Matt Duffy (111 wRC+)
Considering how slowly he started the year, that is a truly impressive turn around. And it really dates back to his return from the injured list.
Before hitting the IL with wrist tendinitis (April 20th), Pederson was slashing just .137/.262/.235 (48 wRC+) with a 32.8% strikeout rate and just one home run. Not only that, but he looked off. It wasn’t just a matter of unfortunate results after good at bats and good contact.
But since he’s returned (May 4th), Pederson has slashed .369/.411/.585 (169 wRC+) with three homers and 11 RBI in 17 games (73 PAs). That makes him the 21st most productive offensive contributor in all of MLB during that stretch (8th in NL!).
Last night’s extra-base binge was especially good to see: “I was hitting some balls really hard for a while and nothing was going in the air,” Pederson said, per Cubs.com. “Just some singles. But it is what it is. I didn’t want to go up there and try to do more and get away from what was being successful. Just trust that it’s gonna come in time. You can’t really force anything in this game; it kind of will tell you when it’s the right time to do it. Just gotta be ready to capitalize.”
Coming off the injured list, Pederson had 11 singles before his first extra base hit (a double in the 6th) and 20 total hits before his first home run. So while he was certainly still producing early on, we know Pederson has legitimate pop and it’s good to see that coming back.
And it’s not particularly difficult to see why he’s been successful overall:
As of today, Pederson has the best hardhit% of his career (51.2% vs. 43.7% career mark) and a really excellent launch angle (15.0% vs. 14.2% career mark). His strikeout rate remains elevated overall, but we’re talking about a 32.8% rate before his stint on the IL and a 23.3% rate since returning. I don’t think there’s much concern there.
He’s even handling fastballs better than he ever has, which was one of the reasons the Cubs brought his bat into the fold this offseason in the first place:
So, long story short? The ‘stache isn’t going anywhere.
Joc Pederson on his plans for the mustache after a 2-HR game:
"I need to dye it, I think. That would be next. Then you could see it – the couple prickles I got.”
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) May 26, 2021