You would think that a lengthy stint on the disabled list would spare us from dopey columns about Yasiel Puig. And yet, here we are, watching L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke turn his palms toward the sky and ask, “Do the Dodgers even neeeeeeed Yasiel Puig???”
Plaschke wonders if the Dodgers’ early season success without Puig will affect the slugger’s attitude when he eventually returns, and then dances around the idea that Puig might actually be expendable now. Here is why Plaschke is wondering about that second question:
One thing is for certain. The numbers are no longer on his side. He’s only 24, and he can still do things with a bat and arm that very few can replicate anywhere on this planet, but opposing pitchers have clearly brought him back to earth.
When he went on the disabled list, he had appeared in only 11 games, so the sample size was too small to determine much. But during the last calendar year, from May 29, 2014 until the present, in 111 games, Puig has seven homers and 34 RBIs. Throw in his seven consecutive strikeouts and final-game benching in last year’s National League division series and there could be a battle brewing.
To be more specific, Yasiel Puig hit .273/.355/.416 with 27 doubles, seven home runs, 34 RBI, and 46 walks in his last 418 at-bats. If those numbers have you convinced that Puig is a player the Dodgers could do without, that’s fine, I guess, but why not play around with sample sizes while we’re here? Why don’t we, say, check in on one of Bryce Harper’s recent 400 at-bat stretches?
From May 5 of last year to May 5 of this year, Bryce Harper hit .258/.353/.420 with 17 homers, 12 doubles, 42 RBI, and 59 walks in 400 at-bats. Convert a few of Puig’s doubles into homers, and you’ve got two essentially identical hitter profiles on your hands. It’s also worth noting that Puig racked up 10.2 rWAR during his first two seasons in the league, while Harper amassed 8.8 rWAR during his first two stints with the Nats.
Also, in 2015, Bryce Harper is hitting .331/.470/.745 with 18 homers and a 227 OPS+, and has so far been unquestionably the best player in baseball. He’s essentially been the reincarnation of Ted Williams. He’s certainly not expendable.
Which is to say, now is not the time to be wondering if the Dodgers might be better off without Yasiel Puig, and that Bill Plaschke should chill the hell out.