It's probably not a coincidence that Baseball's Most Exciting Player is also baseball's most undisciplined player. But is there really something that can be done about Yasiel Puig's wild ways. Yes or no, Jon Paul Morosi thinks that at least something should be tried. Because ...
... if I were a Dodgers fan, I’d be nervous about Puig in October. He’s as likely to cost the Dodgers a playoff game with a needless mistake as he is to win one on a walk-off home run.
For a while, Puig’s frequent fundamental lapses were forgivable. Airmailed cutoff men and unnecessary outs on the basepaths were accepted as part of The Puig Show. Besides, he was saving the season. Let him be.
No more. Puig and Hanley Ramirez have turned the Dodgers into near-certain NL West champions. Now it’s time to prepare for the playoffs. And clearly, Puig isn’t ready. The Dodgers’ weekend series in Philadelphia was further evidence of that.
The Dodgers are in a precarious position here. Mattingly should bench Puig for a day – the clearest form of manager-player communication – to make certain he understands the need to be more aware of game circumstances. But that’s probably unrealistic because Puig helped the Dodgers go on an historic 42-8 run, and the paying customers in L.A. would be displeased if they bought a ticket to Dodger Stadium only to learn their hero wasn’t in the lineup.
Among the elite foursome of young position players in baseball today – along with Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout – Puig is the oldest. He’s also the least fundamentally sound. In a peculiar way, Puig’s rawness has contributed to his entertainment value at times this year. But there’s nothing funny about a mental error in the World Series, which is where this Hollywood story is heading.
Morosi wrote the above before Tuesday night ... when Puig got benched for disciplinary reasons, but got into the game late and smashed the first pitch he saw for a decisive home run.
Wednesday morning, David Schoenfield pointed out some data from Baseball Info Solutions:
Most misplays and errors: Puig 22, Stanton 21, Rasmus 20, Pence 20, L. Martin 17.— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) August 21, 2013
That's not good! But then there's also this:
Entering last night, most good fielding plays since June 3: Puig 25, Gomez 21, Parra 20, Gordon 20, Suzuki 19.— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) August 21, 2013
Which isn't to suggest the good plays perfectly balance the bad plays. In fact, for all his spectacular tools, Puig has been a negative fielder this season, at least if you believe FanGraphs. We can't put a great deal of stock in so few games, but it's probably safe to say that Puig's not exactly the Andrelton Simmons of center fielders.
He's also been a net negative on the bases, too (again, if you believe FanGraphs). You don't mind taking the bad with the good ... but only if there's more good than bad. Otherwise it's hard to keep from getting frustrated. So you can't blame Don Mattingly if he's frustrated, and you can't blame Jon Morosi for writing about it.
That said, this probably isn't the time. We might assume that Puig has always run the bases like a wild horse, and that he's always overthrown the cutoff men like Bo Jackson. Is a one-game benching in August really going to do anything? Old habits die hard, and they rarely die immediately.
So the bad news is that the Dodgers are stuck with Puig's misadventures afield and aboard the bases for the rest of this season, at least. The good news is that he's an outstanding player, even with the misadventures. Yes, he might well cost the Dodgers a game in. But there's a better chance that he'll win a World Series game for the Dodgers. So you just keep playing him, and you hope that next winter or next spring or somewhere else down the road, there's somebody who can get something about the game's finer points through his thick skull.
For much more about Puig and his Dodgers, please visit SB Nation's True Blue LA.