by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The question that we need to try and answer is what exactly has happened to Yasiel Puig? His recent struggles have been obvious (all numbers are through Sunday):
- August – .216 with 0 HR, 4 RBI, 11 R and 1 SB
- September – .237 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 4 R and 0 SB
However the issues run even deeper than just that. On May 28 he hit his 11th home run of the season. Since then? He’s hit just two in 367 plate appearances. It’s interesting, because the 8 HR he hit in May was the biggest output he’s had in any single month. Did that result in a little bit of a homer happy approach?
Not on the surface, as his fly ball rate is 32.3% in the second half, not far off from last season’s 30.7% mark. He’s also popping the ball up less than he did a year ago, down from 10.3% to 8.4%. The big change is a drop in HR/FB, from 21.8% in 2013 to 13.3% in the first half of 2014 to 2.4% in the second half.
Last season he averaged 269.062 feet on non-groundballs. Through May 28, 2014 he was at 288.848, giving hope that the power had fully arrived. However, that doesn’t mean he’s completely folded since (as we would’ve expected given the drop in power). From May 29 until now he’s at 268.064, just a minimal regression from last season.
Is it possible that he’s not as good as his 2013 power number indicated? Absolutely, as his 50.2% groundball rate already gave cause for concern. He’s also not this inept with his power stroke either. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle’ though his 2013 xHR of 19.4 was nearly dead on to his actual HR of 19, according to Baseball Heat Maps.
Can we count on him suddenly rediscovering a bit of power? Absolutely not, though it wouldn’t be surprising either.
The bigger issue is his average, or should we say lack of an average. While his .293 isn’t bad by any stretch, it’s down from .319 last season and could be in store for a further regression. As it is he’s hitting just .261 in the second half, courtesy of a .328 BABIP. Considering how consistently bad his line drive rate has been (14.7% in the first half, 14.2% in the second half), even that number seems unrealistic.
At the same time, he does own a 21.4% line drive rate in September so he clearly has shown some signs. Is it enough to hang our hats on? No, but at least there is some type of potential there.
So how should we proceed? It’s easy to say, “he stinks, cut bait”, given the way he’s played. I have never been his biggest supporter, but at the same time he simply isn’t this bad and he has shown some signs of coming around.
I certainly wouldn’t drop him and, depending on who’s out there, I would even keep him in my lineup. The Dodgers need to get him right for the playoffs, so the AB should continue to be there. There’s just too much upside potential just to give up on it now.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps