Imagine if Puig started hitting LHP again
Last year at this time Yasiel Puig was playing in AAA. Not only had the front office had enough of him, so had the majority of fans. There was a barely a whimper of indignation when Puig was shipped off to AAA and his job was given to the recently acquired Josh Reddick.
I was against the move at the time, given that Puig was one if not the only hitter in the lineup who was doing damage to left-hand pitching. I also thought he was still an above average right fielder. Puig wasn’t crushing LHP but he did have a slug% over .450 against them. The word was that the Dodgers put him on waivers and almost dealt him to the Brewers in what would have been a blockbuster Ryan Braun deal. Not many felt he would get another shot in Dodger blue but on Sept 2nd, the Dodgers added him back to the active major league roster. Puig must have done enough at AAA to convince the Dodgers they should give him another shot. Or his replacement had been so bad, they saved face by saying they were giving him another chance. Either way, Puig was back in Dodger blue.
When the Dodgers brought back up Puig, they inserted him back into right field but only against LHP. He hit well enough putting up a .900 OPS in Sept of 2016 but that didn’t quiet the trade talk this past winter. Luckily that trade never materialized and Puig was still on the Dodger team when camp opened this spring.
Word was that Puig worked hard this winter, came into spring in great shape in body and mind and has cemented himself as the regular right fielder even though he bats eighth in the lineup.
But a funny thing happened to Puig this summer. While he finally remembered how to hit right-hand pitching, he has completely forgotten how to hit left-hand pitching. It is humorous to me when the manager brings in a right-hand pitcher to face Puig. Come on guys, read your scouting reports. It is not like they don’t have up to date stats that are telling them that Puig against RHP is as bad as most pitchers.
He is however, crushing RHP. Crushing them. When you look at the table below you will see that his slug% this season is the highest of any split except his golden 2013 season. And that was against LHP. Puig has played a while now, and the only time he ever struggled against LHP until this year was in 2014.
The Dodgers have plenty of top 20 MVP candidates this year in Turner, Seager, Bellinger, and Taylor. If Puig was hitting LHP like he normally does, they might have five because he’s also been a beast on defense this year. Of course, Puig has never put together a complete season like that since 2013, but I think he’s getting closer. The harder part was learning how to hit RHP again, I think the other is going to come, and when it does he won’t be hitting eighth anymore. Plus, he’s running quite well with twelve stolen bases to being caught only three times. Even Davey Lopes would be proud of that.
His BABIP against LHP is a woeful .160. Historically it is .285. I can’t wait to see what it will be on Oct 1st. I’d be betting on a large rise.
I didn’t put it in the chart below but it was also interesting to see that Puig has much better plate discipline against LHP. That is something I’d expect. His walk percentage is 11%, his strike out percentage rate only 17%.. Against RHP that walk rate falls to 8% and the strikeout percentage rises to 21.
It is easy to be over shadowed on a team that already has four stars, but Puig in 2017 has been an important piece to this team. He hasn’t been hurt this year for the first time since 2014. He looks to be playing like the Wild Horse again, having fun and being productive at the first time. His teammates seem to genuinely like him now instead of putting up with him.
And dammit, he’s the best fielding RF I’ve seen. Just added this throw from last night 08/12/17. 96 MPH, 270 feet. Plus three walks and a bullet to RCF last night against LHP Clayton Richard. Moved his OBP up 18 points.
At 270 feet, it was Puig’s longest throw among his four outfield assists this season. Since Statcast™ was introduced for the 2015 season, Puig’s hardest throw was a 96.3-mph laserto third base, to get the Angels’ Kole Calhoun on June 26 at Dodger Stadium, but only from 159 feet away.