Puig transforming into model of stability
June, 1, 2014
By Buster Olney | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonEarly results have shown that Yasiel Puig (right) has turned into a better teammate, player in 2014.LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp's mood is measured here daily, like the smog index, and Hanley Ramirez's future is unclear, whether he'll be a shortstop, or even a Dodger. The team's defense is a roll of the dice day to day, and so is the bullpen.
It says something about how far Yasiel Puig has come in his development that as June begins, he has become the model of stability within this organization. Every day, he arrives and asks questions, and every day, he seems to get better and better, steadily eroding the mountain of mistakes that he used to make.
"If you see him play every day," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, "he's gone up a notch. We needed him to be a little more refined, to make an adjustment."
He's done that. Which is what all the other Dodgers wanted from him: to stop making the same mistakes over and over and over.
Oh sure, it's very possible that when you watch the Dodgers play the Pittsburgh Pirates on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN), Puig could make a baserunning mistake, and yes, he could overthrow a cut-off man. But it is apparent to the other players on the team that Puig, who moved at hyperdrive speed in everything when he arrived, is slowing the game down.
Puig's plate discipline has improved dramatically, as shown by the numbers from FanGraphs. The percentage of pitches outside the strike zone at which he has swung has plummeted from 38.9 percent in 2013 to 27.8 percent this season. The percentage of pitches inside the zone at which he has swung has dropped from 79.6 percent to 71.2 percent, which speaks to his selectivity. Overall, he has swung at 45.4 percent of pitches, after swinging at 54.4 percent last year.
Last season, Puig racked up 97 strikeouts and 36 walks. This year, that ratio has changed significantly: He's got 43 strikeouts and 26 walks, and he's on track to accumulate 74 walks this season, which is pretty remarkable for such an aggressive player in his first full season. He's hitting .340, and is on track for 80 extra-base hits.
The other Dodgers say he is much more open to suggestions, to constructive criticism, than he was when he first arrived.