As we continue to wait for the tiebreaker and wild card games to finish up so that the NLDS can finally get started tomorrow night, stories beyond “hey, will Andre Ethier play?” need to fill the gap. From both sides of the aisle, I can already see one narrative coming that probably won’t get any quieter over the next few days — it’s the story that Yasiel Puig is slumping miserably:
#Dodgers Puig’s last 24 games: .195 (15-for-77) w/ 2 doubles, 5 homers, 10 RBI, 10 BB, 22 K, .319 OBP, .416 slugging
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) October 1, 2013
— L.A. Times Dodgers (@latimesdodgers) October 2, 2013
The facts, as both writers have them, are accurate, and I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. Puig hit just .214 in September, and there’s no getting around that, and not really even any complaining that these stories get written. You look at “.195 batting average over the last 28 days” and you write that up as a relevant fact, because it is.
So while I don’t really have an issue with these stories existing, I do feel it’s appropriate to add some necessary context here, because there’s a whole lot more to life than batting average. Fortunately, Chad Moriyama did just that a few days ago:
Specifically, I made the point a while ago about his increasing month-by-month pitch per plate appearance totals, and September marked another improvement, as he took 3.77 P/PA.
More importantly though, Puig is arguably having his second-best month in the majors in terms of peripherals. He has posted a 10.1% walk rate and 22.2% strikeout rate with a .238 ISO. Furthermore, his line is .214/.333/.452/.786 primarily because of a .214 BABIP. Hey, he wasn’t going to have had a .430 BABIP forever.
So that’s a pretty good sign, and so is the fact that his six September homers were second only to his seven in June. We’ve also seen him come back from a slump before, because his July OPS (.789) was just about the same as it was in September (.786), and we all saw him come back to bash in August (.920).
Or, put another way — Puig’s September wOBA was .349, and this is causing concern as a slump. By comparison, that wOBA is still better than what guys like Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Starling Marte, and Alfonso Soriano were able to manage this year.
Obviously, wOBA isn’t really a mainstream stat, and it’s difficult for most to overlook a poor batting average — and the honest truth is that if Puig doesn’t drive in runs over the next few days and the Dodgers lose, no one will care what his wOBA or wRC+ or WAR is. But while it’s okay to acknowledge that his September was not one of his better months (which I did in the upcoming NLDS preview that should go up today at ESPN), it’s important not to confuse that with “he’s awful now,” because it’s not the same.
Besides, I’m not sure why we’re caring about Puig’s offensive stats anyway. He could hit .900 with 14 homers in this series, but if he dares miss a cutoff man or pimp a dinger or in some way offend Brian McCann‘s delicate sensibilities, that’s going to be the only story you’ll hear about.