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Waiting … and Waiting … for Yasiel Puig

June 4th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Most Los Angeles Dodgers fans remember when Yasiel Puig was going to be something special. It was five years ago this week that he was called up from Triple A and for a spell looked like the Mike Trout of the National League, except with a stronger throwing arm. He was on my fantasy team, and I loved him.

What a treat for Southern California baseball fans! Mike Trout over in Anaheim and Yasiel Puig doing the sensational in Chavez Ravine!

Well, we still have Mike Trout, as soon as he gets back from surgery.

We now are five seasons down the road from Puig’s sensational first month, and coming up on four seasons since his one good season.

Which leaves us where?

Conceding that Yasiel Puig is Just Not Very Good.

He is in his third season of not doing very much, and no one is really surprised at it. No one asks “when is he going to break out? When is he going to go back to what he really is?”

Friends, 2015, 2016, 2017 … this may be what he really is.

At the age of 26, when he should be reaching a career peak, he is hitting a career-low .238 with a career-low on-base percentage of .315, which is below the major-league average of .321.

He is among the Dodgers leaders in homers (9) and runs batted in (31) but manager Dave Roberts is more likely to bat him eighth in the order (71 at-bats), or seventh (43), than he is sixth (15), fifth (25), fourth (33) or third (4) — where the perceived “real” hitters work.

Puig doesn’t seem to care. He has never seemed to care, really. Maybe his escape from Cuba left him blase forever after.

His game is still about impulsive acts, like trying to throw out every baserunner he sees and chasing pitches up in the zone. As opposed to steady production and reliability along the spectrum of job performance.

It seemed it would be so different, when he made that stunning debut on June 3, 2013. Two hits and a game-ending laser-beam assist in Game 1. After five games he had four home runs and 10 RBI.

He had a very solid 2014 — 148 games, 558 at-bats, 37 doubles, 9 triples, 16 homers, 69 RBI, .295 BA, .382 OBP and a star-level wins-above-replacement (WAR) of 5.1.

Those are totals he has never approached since. His WAR the past three seasons has been 1.1, 1.4 and 0.4 — barely above a league-average player. True, injuries have played a role, but the club also seems to believe he cannot be bothered to do what it takes — like stretching properly — to avoid those injuries, mostly muscle pulls.

A year ago, the Dodgers tried to trade him, could find no deal to their liking and demoted him to the minors. That shock seemed to wake him up a little, and he was solid the rest of the season.

But this season … back to hitting seventh or eighth while the Dodgers depend on guys like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager and Chris Taylor to carry them.

Last month, a Spanish-speaking reporter asked the Cuban outfielder how it felt to no longer be “an essential” member of the Dodgers? He was not happy with that question and never answered it.

But that is fact. He is just another guy, to the Dodgers. Fans still cheer him but this is Year 3 of muted contributions and Year 6 of his seven-season, $42 million deal.

Can Yasiel Puig turn it around? Can he still be the fast and powerful ball of energy we saw in 2013 and 2014?

Yes, it is possible. But less so with each passing day.


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