Los Angeles Dodgers: Why Yasiel Puig has been their best player

Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasiel Puig

I know. Yesterday, I wrote that Dee Gordon has been the best player this year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But I could not choose between Gordon and second year phenom Yasiel Puig.

Everybody knows the story of Puig. Everybody knows the impact he had on the Dodgers last season. The Dodgers were 23-32 before calling up Puig on June 3. I was at his debut, and had never been more excited for a game that matched up Stephen Fife and San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Stults. But those familiar with the Dodgers knew Puig was capable of being special.

Special doesn’t begin to describe what Puig brought to the Dodgers last season. Baseball fans have seen the cannon he has attached to his right shoulder. They know he has raw power, raw speed and raw ability that has drawn comparisons to Bo Jackson, complete with “Yasiel Sabe” shirts all over Chavez Ravine. Maturity issues have definitely been a concern since Puig joined the Dodgers almost one year ago. Between showing up late for team meetings and getting pulled over for speeding on multiple occasions, Puig has been a headache for Don Mattingly and Dodger fans alike.

People had their concerns with Puig on the field, stemming from last season. Puig got off to a torrid start, hitting .436 in 26 games in June. He came to earth in July, only hitting .287 before hitting .320 in August. However in September and October, Puig only hit .214. Many pundits were wondering whether pitchers were finally figuring Puig out. Others were wondering if his luck was running out, knowing he could not keep up his hot start. With a 22.5% strikeout rate and only an 8.3% walk rate, many were wondering if the sexy numbers and style of play were overshadowing more troublesome trends in Puig’s game.

The 2014 season started ominously for Puig. He had a couple hits in Australia, but disappointed fans on Opening Day when he arrived late to the ballpark and forced Mattingly’s hand into sitting him game one, which I’ve since been trying to erase from my memory. I remember sitting in the top deck, listening to the drunk fans behind me talking about how Puig needs to be sent back down to AAA so he can grow up and how the Dodgers don’t need a guy like him.

Through May 22, it seems like the Dodgers have needed Puig. Antics and all, Puig is hitting .333 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 41 games. Last year in 432 plate appearances, Puig walked a total of 36 times and struck out 97 times. So far this season in 187 plate appearances, Puig has already walked 21 times and struck out 36 times. His walk rate is up about three percent, and his strikeout rate is down about the same.

Puig has shown improvement where he has needed to, and has been the Dodgers’ best hitter all season. He has been on fire in May, hitting .406 with six home runs, 21 RBIs, 11 walks and a .500 OBP through May 21. He was recently named player of the week and his supposed “sophomore slump” seems to be a laughable proposition. Some, including myself, love his bat-flipping ways and his constant hustle on the field. Others think he needs to grow up and “respect the game”. Whatever side of the coin you’re on, it’s hard to reject the fact that Puig has not only been one of the best players on the Dodgers, but one of the best in baseball in 2014.

And if you don’t believe me- from The Baseball Cube

Player Year Team League Level G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO HBP IBB SH SF GDP AVG OBP SLG OPS
Yasiel Puig 2014 LA Dodgers National League MLB 41 159 25 53 10 2 10 37 4 3 21 36 5 2 0 1 2 .333 .425 .610 1035
Mike Trout 2014 LA Angels American League MLB 45 174 29 47 10 4 8 31 5 0 25 56 2 0 4 1 2 .270 .366 .511 878

 

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