Suffice to say Yasiel Puig’s second season in the big leagues hasn’t gotten off on the same foot his rookie year did. For starters, Puig was with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day in 2014, rather than playing with their minor league affiliate in Chattanooga, as was the case in 2013. With plenty of expectations heaped on the Cuban outfielder, Puig’s Major League debut was a night entirely focused on him.
This season, plenty of attention has remained on Puig, both for his play, but also his past, namely details of his escape from Cuba, and other off-the-field transgressions. Through 26 games this season, Puig has already not played in four of them, and is hitting .265 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. After the same number of games in 2013, Puig was hitting .436 with seven homers and 16 RBIs, while playing in all 26 games.
The situation is a bit of comparing apples to oranges and it certainly couldn’t have been expected Puig would maintain an average above .400. Naturally, with more film available of him at the plate, a question heading into this season was how Puig would adjust to the pitchers that have adjusted to him.
According to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, Puig is taking the necessary steps to analyze the strategy pitchers use against him:
I’ve definitely been doing a lot more studying this year,” Puig said through an interpreter. “There’s a lot of good pitchers in this league and they’ve definitely figured me out as a hitter. So I have to do more studying, more preparation with my coaches.”
Zack Greinke offered the approach he would take if facing Puig, which is essentially what opposing pitchers have done to Puig:
Up and in with hard stuff. Down and away with off-speed.”
The extra studying Puig has undertaken currently isn’t paying off in his batting average, but the typically aggressive hitter has already walked eight times and is on pace to break 2013’s walk total of 36. As other hitters do, Puig still has moments where it appears as though he’s flailing at the plate. One of the criticisms the young outfielder has faced is the accusation he’s unwilling to work on improving as a player.
Puig’s teammates and Don Mattingly have come to his defense on multiple occasions in an effort to clear the air on his perceived lack of desire to improve. While the studying may not be paying dividends now, it’s another positive sign that Puig is interested in evolving as a player.
Dodgers Update: Yasiel Puig’s Story Going To Be A Movie? Plus, Mattingly’s Trouble In The Outfield