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Yasiel Puig: The Man, the Myth

August 24th, 2013 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I take it, from the other side of the world, that the narrative in Los Angeles remains this:

Yasiel Puig is a baseball superstar. Or a star, anyway. Or so we thought.

Now, I am not so certain.

And maybe this has been noted already, several times, and I have not seen it … but for all the buzz he brings to the ballpark, which certainly is welcome at a formerly funereal Chavez Ravine, Puig has not been a particularly productive player since his first five games of the season.

Love that on-base percentage. And the “wins above replacement” (3.7) is nice, though he trails teammates Clayton Kershaw (7.1) and Hanley Ramirez (4.0) there.

He has some weird/disappointing numbers, however.

If he stays healthy over the final five weeks, he will have played two-thirds of a season with a team that has played .716 ball (53-21) since he arrived … yet he is on a 107-game pace (subtracting the 55 games before he arrived) to drive in only 44 runs and hit 18 home runs. In what would be 107 games.

Not strong numbers for a “star” right fielder.

Also, four of his 12 in-the-books homers and 10 of his 29 RBI came in the first five games of his career, back in June. When the legend of Yasiel Puig was formed.

Since then? In 66 games, 19 RBI and eight home runs.

He does have that gaudy batting average (.342) and OBP (.401) Some of the RBI stats, at least, apparently are not about him.

Only 50 of his at-bats (from 272) have come with runners in scoring position. In 166 of his at-bats, he batted with the bases empty.

Some of that comes from leading off innings (and games). As well as hitting behind or near the 9 hole — 32 at-bats while hitting in the leadoff spot and 183 in the 2 hole.

Leading off offers no chance for RBI unless you hit a home run, of course, and 64 of his at-bats have come at the opening of an inning.

He is particularly good at reaching base when he leads off — hitting .484 with an astonishing OBP of .522.

But on those rare occasions when he does bat with runners in scoring position, he underachieves, hitting .260 (13-for-50), or 82 points below his overall average.

(Some comparisons: Miguel Cabrera, the MLB leader in RBI, has had 135 at-bats with RISP, and is hitting .422; Adrian Gonzalez has had 120 and is hitting .342; Hanley Ramirez has had 54 and has hit .389. Andre Ethier, however, has had 116 RISP at-bats, and is hitting .224 — so it’s not like Puig should be benched. Of course not.)

Still, in 71 games, Puig does his best hitting with the bases empty — and is not far north of awful with anyone on second or third, and is on pace for 44 RBI and 18 homers with something like 400 plate appearances.

Which is a pretty good season for a catcher or second baseman, but not a right fielder who seems to have speed and power.

He is better at getting around the bases, with 50 runs, which puts him on pace for 75 in 107 games. Not bad, but not a great number for a guy who usually hits at the top of the order, with Gonzalez and (when they are not hurt) Ramirez and Matt Kemp behind him.

Puig also has had some misadventures on the bases, including being caught nearly half the time he tries to steal — seven caught-stealings in 15 attempts.

So, a star presence? Apparently so.

A star player? A myth, so far.


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