2013 in brief: Hugely massive debut unlike anything we’ve seen before.
2014 status: Probably the Dodger outfielder most guaranteed to have a starting job.
Picking up where we left off yesterday, Puig’s ridiculous run of everything was still going strong in early August, as were the Dodgers — no coincidence, to be sure.
Or, if I may put it another way:
But of course, the backlash continued, even beyond the foolish “but he snubbed a guy who he’d never met!” business from ridiculous Arizona writers, as we were fortunate enough to hear stories about how his defensive mistakes would certainly cost the Dodgers a playoff game.
And make no mistake, Puig’s mistakes were real. He’d get picked off. He’d make ludicrous decisions on the bases. He’d give up extra bases by throwing home on plays he had no chance on. Even the most ardent Puig defender wouldn’t deny that. And yet in the middle of the furor, it certainly seemed to some that this very simple point was being missed: the good things he provided were worth way, way more than the bad things were hurting, a point which we endlessly tried to make when Puig was benched for a game for lack of hustle near the end of the month.
You’ll have noticed, at this point, that Myers does a whole lot of the same things that Puig does, yet doesn’t seem to get 10% of the disdain. I think we all know why, and it’s because Myers is whi… ttling away his time in the relative baseball obscurity of Tampa Bay, as opposed to the bright lights of Los Angeles. It’s because Puig isn’t from this co… mmunity of ballplayers who “know how to play the game the right way”.
Puig continued to rake in August, turning around his slower July, to the tune of .320/.405/.515. But after going 2-4 in Philadelphia on August 17, he’d slump over the next week, collecting only two hits, and his OPS wouldn’t see 1.000 again. Despite some good games at the end of the month, that continued into September, and then… wait, hold on, September 4. Oh… oh my.
That was the second-longest in the history of Petco Park, and months later I find myself staring at it in awe. But even though he homered five times in September, he’d hit just .214/.333/.452, well off his earlier pace. Part of that is simply that no one could be expected to keep that up, of course; part of is is that the entire team was flat with the pennant race over and time to kill before October.
Before the playoffs got going, we tried to see what this slump was all about, noting that his plate discipline had improved:
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.
The NLDS started, and any concern quickly wore off. Puig hit .471./500/.529 in the short four-game series against Atlanta. He didn’t quite have the same luck against St. Louis, but he did do this in Game 3…
…on a ball that absolutely did not leave the park. He still made it into third without a throw. It’s possibly the greatest moment in the history of baseball, while encapsulating in a single play both why we love him so much and fans of every other team do not.
Overall, the hand-wringing about what he’d do in the playoffs was a bit much, because he did hit .333/.366/.410, though that was heavily weighed towards the NLDS; in the NLCS, he hit only .227/.261/.318, though I think we saw that absolutely no one could hit the St. Louis pitching.
His defensive issues couldn’t be ignored either, with several miscues, including this…
…but though ugly, none of them really impacted the series. The Dodgers were doomed when Hanley Ramirez got hurt after Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier were already injured, when they had to send Skip Schumaker & Nick Punto against that pitching, and when Clayton Kershaw inexplicably blew up in Game 6.
So what did we end up with? Only one of the most memorable seasons in Dodger history. Puig was worth four wins in his rookie year, coming in second in the Rookie of the Year voting only because Jose Fernandez was phenomenal. He did that despite missing the first two months and giving a lot back on the bases and on defense; over the last 50 years, the list of rookies who put up five wins (as Puig conservatively would have had he played a full season) is short.
There’s a lot of work to be done here, as we all expected there would be. Those stupid errors need to be smoothed out, and hopefully they can be; for all the national worry about what kind of person he is — some small amount of which is valid, no doubt, because he made mistakes — he’s spent his offseason being awesome to kids. The talent is real. The future is terrifying in every single way. I love it.
Next! We finish off the hitters with a reminder that Alex Castellanos existed!