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|
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.