Yasiel Puig will not regress (as much as you think)

It’s so chic to discuss Yasiel Puig these days. I’m very much in on Puig. I put my money where my mouth is with him this year. I drafted him in my keeper league for $1. I was hit with a rash of injuries (Tulo, Price, Cueto) and couldn’t give up that roster spot so I cut him and he was picked up by a rival owner. Obviously I wanted him back and managed to work out a trade to get him. I sent a $21 Madison Bumgarner, a $4 Jason Heyward and Grant Balfour and got back a $1 Puig, $1 Wheeler and $28 Ben Zobrist. It was (and remains to be) a risky trade on my part. I gave up a lot of dependable production to get in on the ground floor of some potential long term keepers.

Today, Ray Flowers wrote about Puig’s pending regression, which I totally understand and agree, he will regress. But there is so much unknown about Puig that it’s also possible that he doesn’t. It’s not likely that he keeps up this historic pace. Only 8 players in the last 20 years have had a better first half OPS than Puig’s 1.218 so far in first half of 2013. Barry Bonds owns 3 first halves better (2001, 2002, 2004), Mark McGwire also has 3 better (1996, 1998, 2000) and Frank Thomas, in 1994, and Larry Walker in 1997 round out the list. Puig’s sample size is significantly smaller than the others on the list. He’s only played in 27 games this season and the next lowest of the aforementioned list is 65 by McGwire in 1996.

Year 27 Gm OPS Season OPS
Thomas 1994 1.104 1.217
Walker 1996 1.322 1.172
McGwire 1996 1.125 1.198
McGwire 1998 1.287 1.222
McGwire 2000 1.400 1.229
Bonds 2001 1.204 1.379
Bonds 2002 1.484 1.381
Bonds 2004 1.699 1.422
Trout 2012 .857 .963
Puig 2013 1.218 ???

We can take a look at the first 27 games of each of those seasons and see how those guys faired in their first 27 games. As you can see, all of their first 27 games were extraordinary, but they weren’t that far off of their end of season OPS. I threw in Mike Trout’s 2012 season for some recent comparison. The biggest gap between them is Bonds in 2004 (a difference of .277), so if we put Puig on that same extreme drop off rate, we’d see his end of season OPS at .941. Last year, that would have been good for a tie with Edwin Encarnacion for 6th in MLB, and ahead of guys like Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Robinson Cano and Adrian Beltre. Maybe he drops off even more drastically as Flowers projects, but let’s keep in mind that he’s in some pretty rarified territory right here.

Now there are also some cautionary tales to be told. A few ticks down the list of the best first half OPS performances, we start to see some guys that aren’t sure fire Hall of Fame worthy. Guys like Chris Stynes and Juan Samuel. In 2000, Stynes had a first half OPS of 1.200. That season he finished the year with an OPS of .883. Similarly, Juan Samuel started off the first half of the 1995 season with an OPS of 1.193 and finished with an OPS of .858. Neither of those end of year totals are bad, they’re just not historic by any stretch. So I fully admit that it’s possible that Puig’s numbers fall and he could very well end the year with an OPS around .800. His .513 BABIP is crazy, but when you look at Trout’s 2012, his .383 BABIP is pretty crazy too.

Yasiel Puig is a special story, even if he regresses. The way this guy plays the game and the energy he’s brought to the Dodgers has made Dodger games appointment baseball. I tune in to as many Puig at bats as I can. It’s just exciting to see what kind of crazy thing he’s going to do next. It could be an amazing throw out in the field, being boneheadedly aggressive on the base paths or a mammoth home run on a breaking ball down and out of the zone. The guy has serious talent and if the coaching staff in Los Angeles is able to shape and direct his aggressive approach to the game, he will be a monster for a long, long time. I for one hope he continues on a tear through baseball and I definitely think he should be on the National League All Star team. It’s a game for the fans, and everyone seems to love this guy. I know I do.


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5 Responses

  1. low slider says:

    dynasty league. h2h 5×5. keep 25 of 36. Do i trade my possible dynasty monster yasiel puig and nate eovaldi for cano and shields?? seems obvious sell high but the talent is overwhelming on this guy. Sit and enjoy or sell high sell high??

    • I say sit and enjoy. And I’m a huge Cano fan. I think Cano has multiple MVP awards in his future. But he is 30 years old. That seems like a fair offer, but I’d sit tight on Puig.

  2. low slider says:

    thanks for the reply. Yea it is such a tough offer because thats getting immediate value on the young puig but to trade a possible dynasty monster is tough. I feel if puig has a mccutchen esque ceiling then why would i do it? I like mccutchen real similar to cano even in a redraft so to pass on what could be a huge career of puigs for a great but aging cano may not be the best fit for this dynasty format. Again tho tough to pass on getting robinson cano

    • Definitely tough to pass on Cano. I think Puig has a higher ceiling than McCutchen. If you look at McCutchen’s rookie season (age 22), Puig will probably outpace those numbers. I think Puig will deliver more power and less speed. Good thoughts. Inspiring me to write about a McCutchen/Puig comparison. Thanks.

  3. Josh says:

    Although this is an older post, I just wanted to say, comparing a .383 BABIP to a .513 BABIP is literally insane. While a .383 BABIP is usually unstable, for a player like Trout it might only have regressed 30 some points. Puig’s HAD to fall at least five times as much.

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Players mentioned in this post
Mike Trout
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Yasiel Puig
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