I get it: you're tired of the Yasiel Puig hype. And I sort of agree with you. He's been in the league for a week, and even though plenty of guys have good weeks where they hit .400 with power, none of those players have ended up being an unholy mash-up of Babe Ruth and Bo Jackson yet. Odds are, this one won't either.
But even if I don't get the excesses featured on Baseball Tonight and the rest, I get why they're all talking about him. The Dodgers get talked about because they're a big market team that spent an A-Rod and a half on their roster, and they aren't any good. That's newsworthy, even if it gets dull after a while.
And the team itself isn't that interesting. I'd apologize to any Dodger fans reading this, but they probably already agree with me. Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez are good, because they're always good, and Hyun-jin Ryu has been a nice surprise, but otherwise the team is old and injured and not that exciting.
So along comes a prospect. He's Cuban, and if Major League Baseball has taught me anything about global politics in the last couple of years, it's that everyone on that island is a frightening cyborg who can do this and this and especially this. They just show up out of nowhere every few years and do things that baseball players aren't supposed to be able to.
Plus, the Dodgers paid $42 million for him, so there's expectations. You don't pay a guy 13 times more than you pay a normal prospect if you aren't expecting something impressive out of him. So he shows up and he does this and this. It stimulates the imagination, even if we know that the numbers aren't going to last forever.
So, apologies to Trent Oeltjen and all the other rookies with hot starts who didn't get this sort of attention, but I'm not going to apologize for finding Puig entertaining. At least not until this time next week, when Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds will be arguing about whether Puig should pitch in the All-Star Game.
What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):
Sadly for Dodger fans, the team has not learned from Puig's fine example. While his addition has resulted in a marked power surge for the team (Puig already ranks fourth in home runs on the Dodgers), the offense is still below-average, and the pitching staff has struggled outside of Kershaw and Ryu.
1. Gerardo Parra, RF
2. Didi Gregorius, SS
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Martin Prado, 3B
6. Cody Ross, LF
7. A.J. Pollock, CF
8. Cliff Pennington, 2B
1. Yasiel Puig, RF
2. Mark Ellis, 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Andre Ethier, CF
5. Scott Van Slyke, LF
6. Nick Punto, SS
7. Tim Federowicz, C
8. Luis Cruz, 3B
I'm actually being generous with this lineup, since Andre Ethier fouled a ball off the arch of his foot on Saturday and may be going on the DL. Even if he doesn't, "Andre Ethier, CF" is a phrase that should strike terror into the hearts of Dodger fans everywhere, since Ethier has been almost 30 runs below average in his career as a corner infielder.
As for the rest of why this lineup looks like it should cost way less than what the Dodgers paid, I'll just defer to this. Even if Matt Kemp hasn't been the Matt Kemp we know and resent, you still have to feel better about his contributions over the long haul than Scott Van Slyke's.
Amid all of the chaos however, Adrian Gonzalez has reminded a skeptical NL West just how happy they were to get him out of the division the first time. Of note, Gonzalez's wRC+ is third among NL First Basemen, behind just Goldschmidt and Votto. The raw numbers aren't great, but he's been by far the team's best and most consistent hitter this year.
And as for our man-child, Puig is hitting .423/.458/1.000 as of this writing. He's currently hitting home runs on 80 percent of his fly balls, which is hilarious and tragically unsustainable. And his SLG% is going to drop when it does. I also expect his strikeout rate to go up, based on his numbers in Double-A. All that being said, Puig has a good chance to remain a very good hitter going forward.
Monday: Wade Miley (4-5, 4.92) vs. Clayton Kershaw (5-4, 1.93)
Insightful Commentary: Miley's start against the Cardinals was a big load of ugly, but it was effective enough to stem the tide of calls for Miley's head. 11 hits, but all but one was a single, and he got some well-timed double plays. It wasn't great, and it wasn't vintage Miley, but I'll take 6.2 innings, three runs from a struggling pitcher against the best offense in the NL any time.
I went to the game on Sunday with a friend, and, after Skaggs and company had made the game suitably unwatchable, the topic of best pitcher in the game came up. He chose Kershaw. I went with Verlander, but I had to think about it for a bit. The fact that Kershaw can even prompt this uncertainty after what Verlander has done over the past two seasons says everything about how good Kershaw has become.
Tuesday: Ian Kennedy (3-4, 5.72) vs. Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.89)
Insightful Commentary: I missed the meltdown portion of Kennedy's last start, which I'm rather thankful for. But even to begin the game, pretty much everything he threw was getting squared up, and it was probably only a matter of time before it stopped finding fielders. I don't know else to say about Kennedy that hasn't already been said, but his 2013 has been about as close as baseball can come to a Cormac McCarthy novel.
You'll probably recall that Greinke lost five weeks of his season after getting punched in the face by Carlos Quentin. It's okay, you're allowed to find it funny now. Greinke's strikeouts are down so far, as is his velocity. This could just be an early season thing, but it's worth keeping an eye on going forward.
Wednesday: Patrick Corbin (9-0. 1.98) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-2, 2.72)
Insightful Commentary: Corbin looked back to his dominant ways against the Giants, scattering seven base runners across 7.1 one-run innings. He didn't allow a walk for the first time in three starts, and he didn't allow a home run for the first time in three starts, which are both good signs going forward.
It's not like Ryu needed to improve, but he's been at his best in his last two starts, with a 13:1 K:BB over that time. The fastball is solid enough and hangs out in the low nineties, but it's his supplementary stuff that truly shines. He was known for his changeup in Korea, and its success has traveled across the Pacific with him. Additionally, his slider has proven to be a solid strikeout pitch as well.
Three Pressing Questions:
How might I go about pronouncing "Yasiel Puig?" Puig is pretty easy, as most people have stuck with the semi-logical "Pweeg" pronunciation. "Yasiel" is a tad more divisive, as I've seen people in the "Yah-zeel" camp, the "Yah-seel" camp, and even the "Yah-see-el" camp. For now, I'm sticking with a pronunciation that resembles what an enthusiastic fan might shout at a Seal concert.
So is this Puig character sort of a jerk, or what? I don't really know, as I've never met him. The main evidence for this claim seems to be his bat-flip, which has occurred several times in various locales. To some extent, it's probably just the momentum from the swing, but it's a bit showy. Hopefully I don't have to tell you about the fallacy of judging a young man's character by what he does with his bat after hitting a home run, though.
In non-Puig news, how's the Clayton Kershaw extension coming? Well, you know one is coming, because he's entering his second year of arbitration and the Dodgers lose their coveted title of "Most Reckless with Money, Class of 2013" if they don't get a deal done at some point.
But considering LA's funds, and Kershaw's awesomeness, I have to assume the deal's just going to blow the doors off of everything else we've seen. Like, I'm imagining the discussions consist of Ned Colletti wheeling in giant gold statues and melting them down before Kershaw's eyes.
Dodgers Blog: True Blue LA
(All stats via Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)