Why Yasiel Puig Should Be an All-Star... Barely
Currently, Yasiel Puig is not on the National League All-Star team. Depending on who you talk to, this is either proof of the existence of a higher being or justification that the world has gone mad before our very eyes.
Complicating matters is the difficulty of making a numbers-based argument for his inclusion. Sure, a .437 OBP, .677 slugging percentage, and 5.9 percent homerun rate as certainly ASG-worthy numbers. They're MVP-worthy numbers, in fact. They've just come in a fraction of the total sample size of other competitors. Where do you draw the line for how much a guy should play before his numbers actually statistically mean something?
That's where we come in. Using numberFire's nERD formula, we can determine a player's efficiency and how many runs he has added to his team's overall play. This number is a catch-all: it uses a player's power, ability to find holes in the defense, and patience at the plate to give one grand formula for how well he's playing given his overall playing time.
The result is that, as many have speculated, Yasiel Puig is indeed one of the Top 30 batters in the majors so far this season. It's just that the National League outfield race might be the most crowded at any position in the league, and his All-Star worthiness is complicated as a result.
Inside Puig's Outrageous Numbers
Want to know just how good this guy has been in limited time? For fun (well, my idea of fun), here are some of his batting ratios from so far this season:
I honestly think my favorite might be that last one. Silly human, you think the Puigotron 4000 will pop up on the infield? Never! Mwahahaha. 98 percent of his total fly balls getting to at least the outfield is positively ridiculous.
Sure, Puig has his flaws. His 23.0 percent strikeout rate is about three percent above the MLB average. With a 3.7 percent walk rate, he receives fewer free passes than Selena Gomez at Disney World. And he's only 5 for 8 on his total stolen base attempts so far this season.
But those numbers are secondary when you realize that when he does put a ball into play, he's almost as likely to get a hit as he is to get out. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this season is a Roy Hobbs-esque .494. The MLB BABIP average this season is .296. The leader among qualified batters is Jhonny Peralta's .387. I think Bill James just fainted.
When coupled with a 5.9 percent homerun rate that would rank ninth if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, it's no surprise that Puig is our No. 26 batter overall. His 2.34 nERD score is tops among all Dodgers batters; Adrian Gonzalez is second at 1.45 nERD. And of the 25 players ahead of him in the rankings, all have at least 250 plate appearances and all but three have at least 330 at-bats this season.
Where Does He Stack Up?
If Puig played any other position (well, besides possibly AL 3B), he would be a surefire All-Star. With the deluge of strong, efficient NL outfielders this season though, we believe there is absolutely a case for leaving him out in the dust. Depending on whether you categorize Allen Craig as a first baseman or an outfielder (he was at 1B on the MLB ASG ballot), Puig would only be our sixth or seventh strongest NL outfielder according to the current efficiency rankings.
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Really, you're going to kick off one of those guys for Yasiel Puig? I'm not. Strong cases can be made as well for Domonic Brown (No. 28) and Dexter Fowler (No. 29), both of whom went through extraordinarily hot stretches of limited sample size play just like Puig before eventually regressing towards the mean.
Since the National League took seven outfielders this year, we're going to go ahead and give Puig the benefit of the doubt on our list. He's in; sound the trumpets. According to our metrics, though, it's not a clear-cut decision on one side or the other. Sure, Puig's been spectacular, but regression to the mean indicates he's due for a cool-down soon. And if he in fact keeps up his .494 BABIP for the rest of the season, I might just hang up my sabermetric hat for good.