Analyzing Yasiel Puig’s Slump


Aug 29, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) reacts after striking out during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Yasiel Puig‘s slump has been a main topic of conversation for the Dodgers, since the dynamic outfielder finds himself scuffling at the plate a bit. With Joc Pederson now in the mix, every time an outfielder finds himself struggling their will be an added layer of controversy as fans/media and everyone alike will question whether it is time for Joc to take over. Of course, benching Puig for anyone at this point is extremely premature, even though some fans get extremely frustrated at any mistake he makes. Puig has been benched recently and been told he might need a few other days off due to his recent slump, so I would like to look into this slump and see just how bad it is, meanwhile debunking some myths about it.

The slump pretty much started in August, where Puig hit .216/.296/.247 with a .255 wOBA and a 61 wRC+. This month was Puig’s worst by a long shot, and he walked less and struck out more then any other month as well. His BABIP was .288, which isn’t atrociously low or unlucky for normal standards, but considering that Puig’s previous low in a month this year was .321 it is something to notice. His line drive rate in August dropped to 9.7%, the first month it was below 11.8% and a drastic drop from the July rate of 17.5%. September, although early, hasn’t been too kind to Puig yet either where he has a wRC+ of 41 in the Jose Altuve* of sample sizes.

*small. This is a small joke. 

What are the reasons for this slump that we can blame? Let’s look into some popular theories:


I actually haven’t heard this theory much but it’s one  that maybe will gain traction at one point or will be said if Yasiel is asked to join the home run derby again. It’s widely thought that participating in the home run derby ruins players for the second half of the year because they alter their swing. Although this isn’t something to completely dismiss, due to prolific hitters such as Ken Griffey Jr. saying this does happen, it doesn’t fit to be the reason for Puig’s slump. In the 2nd half, Puig is hitting .263/.353/.387 with a 114 wRC+. It’s not the video game numbers he put up in the first half, but it also isn’t the atrocious numbers he put up in August. What has decreased is his home run output in the 2nd half, as he only has 1 home run in this second half compared to 12 in the first. Puigs mechanics don’t seem to be completely altered after the home run derby, and it’s not like Puig spent a lot of time in the contest, but this theory probably will rise and not go away because of the timeline. Puig has never seemed like a home run hitter, as he is more of a line drive hitter who happens to be so strong that his line drives leave the stadium. So, I can’t see the home run derby having a huge effect on him as he didn’t even try completely changing his swing to fit it.


The reason Mattingly is giving for Puig’s struggles seems to be centered around Puig simply being tired. A manager who sees Puig every day would surely have more inside information on the perceived speed of a player, so fans should perhaps believe the manager would be the one with the best information on this topic. Taking a look at 2013 could give us information about Puig perhaps tiring towards the end of the year. In August 2013, Puig had a 153 wRC+ and followed that month with a 125 wRC+. Then, he was full of energy in the playoffs. Maybe this is something specific to this year, as he did not get to rest during the all star break, but looking at last year and you see that even with Puig’s non-stop energy, he did not slow down late in the year. Things obviously change year to year, but it isn’t something that is a trend for Puig so far.


Another popular theory is that Puig is hiding an injury or his hip injury from earlier in the year is still lingering. It’s entirely possible he is hiding an injury and would not be the first or last time an athlete hides an injury to try and play through the pain. However, the possibility that it is the hip injury from before doesn’t fit into the timeline. Given that the hip injury occurred around June, it would not make sense for this injury to be the main factor of Puig’s slump and for him to have a wRC+ of 210 in July. If this injury was the one bothering him, he did a great job of playing through it in July.


I am being a bit premature on this one, but I can already see this as a myth as to why he is struggling. I’ll put myself out there and say this is completely false. Sure, Joc is new, exciting, and talented. It’s fun and easy to paint Puig as some jealous egomaniac who can’t fathom someone new coming up. But first off, watch Joc’s first at bats in the bigs. I think Puig celebrated more then anyone, including Pederson’s family. Puig has a drive and excitement about winning, and it isn’t always about him. Also, Puig’s struggles started even before Joc was going to come up and this would just be trying to get inside the brain of someone you don’t have access to and being an armchair doctor. Puig puts pressure on himself to do better, and believing it’s because of ego ignores that sometimes players just slump.

So, what is the reason for the slump? It’s a bad streak for Puig. He’s still walking, hitting his fair share of line drives, and not allowing it to translate to defense. I believe the best way for Puig to get out of it is just with at bats, similar to what Mattingly successfully did with Crawford’s atrocious slump. The Dodgers obviously are a completely different team with Puig doing well, and him turning around this slump and going on a hot streak in September and hopefully October would go a huge way for the postseason dreams.