Don't Worry, Baseball Fans: Yasiel Puig Is Good Again
Were you worried about Yasiel Puig? Were you worried that the magic had gone, that he had lost it, that the enigmatic Cuban sensation's bat had defected from him?
Well fear not, Yasiel Puig fans. He's back.
After suffering through a rough patch in August, Puig is back to his regularly scheduled programming, getting his knocks, smackin' some homers, runnin' with his hair on fire and throwin' out fools silly enough to try and run on his hose of an arm in right field. To wit, from last night's 5-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants...
Oh, Yasiel. http://t.co/IKkSJaBXnX— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) September 23, 2014
That throw nailed Brandon Belt at home as Belt tried to score from second on a Brandon Crawford single, keeping the game tied at 2-2 in the 11th. San Francisco ultimately scored three times in the 13th to draw to within 3.5 games of L.A. in the National League West, but that is still a pretty comfortable lead for the Dodgers, with under a week left to go in the regular season.
As for Puig, his bat has heated back up at just the right time.
Puig's nERD this season is 2.72 - meaning a lineup full of Puigs would score 2.72 runs a game more than a league-average player over a 27-out game - which is 11th best in the Majors. His 4.8 fWAR is tied for ninth-best in the National League and his offensive WAR of 5.1, as calculated by Baseball Reference, is fifth-best in the NL.
So what's different? One of the main things Puig has done is cut down on his strikeouts.
In August, Puig struck out in 22.2% of his plate appearances, the highest in any month this season. His walk rate was also down a bit, 9.3%, compared to 10.3, 11.3, and 13.3% the previous three months, but not drastically lower. However, in September, Puig has struck out in only 15.5% of his plate appearances, his lowest mark of the season, while his walk rate has improved just a hair, drawing a base on balls in 9.5% of his plate appearances this month.
Perhaps that is why his line-drive rate has spiked this month as well. In August, he consistently made weak contact, with just a 9.7% line-drive rate, down sharply from the 17.5, 14.3, 16.7 and 11.8% line drive rates he'd posted the previous four months. In September, he's hitting the ball hard once again, with a season-high 19.0% line drive rate.
In my extensive research, I've found that hitting baseballs really, really hard is a good thing, as evidenced by Puig's .774 batting average on line drives this season.
So, Yasiel Puig is back. He's diving for baseballs...
...and launching rockets...
...all at just the right time for the Dodgers, as L.A. makes its push for a third straight NL West crown.