As important as Yasiel Puig was to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ remarkable turnaround last season, there understandably were growing pains that the team had to endure and use as teaching moments for the young right fielder. Heading into this season, the hope was Puig would learn from his shortcomings in 2013 and continue evolving into an all-around player.
Puig showed improvement in hitting cutoff men during Spring Training, but struggled at the plate, finishing with a .167 batting average on eight hits in 48 at-bats. Puig’s fortunes at the plate changed once the regular season rolled around. Though he initially wasn’t delivering three-run homers or bases-clearing triples, Puig flashed a refined and more patient approach at the plate.
That patience has since translated to Puig emerging as threat with runners in scoring position, which led to manager Don Mattingly giving his outfielder high praise, via ESPN LA’s Mark Saxon:
Yasiel has shown that he’s turned into an RBI guy. He’s been more patient at the plate, he’s gotten himself better pitches to hit, so I think in the long run, Yasiel is a third or fourth-type hitter,” Mattingly said. “He is that [Mike] Trout guy. He’s showing us that he’s moving in that direction.”
Mattingly’s comments are drastically different when compared to his statements in February that Puig would likely be the leadoff hitter more times than not because of his inability to drive runners in. With runners in scoring position, Puig is batting .395 with 21 RBIs. In the same instances but with two outs, Puig’s average jumps to .444 and he has 13 RBIs.
Puig has recorded at least one RBI in six of the Dodgers’ last 10 games, while simultaneously getting his batting average above .300. The outfielder recently spoke of his studying more film, which appears to be paying dividends.
As the Dodgers have had games where the offense collectively has struggled, Puig has continued to improve and at the very least, laid to rest concerns of a sophomore slump for the time being.
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