Yasiel Puig The Mismanagement Of A Star
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
I cried foul when Don Mattingly dealt with Matt Kemp. “I don’t agree with you being against a midseason shift of positions, so I am going to literally toy with you and not bat you at all in the lineup”. Lets not take into account that the team seems perfectly content to play Hanley Ramirez at shortstop for completely opposite reasons. But that’s besides the point.
The point is, Don Mattingly is dealing with Yasiel Puig right now, very much like how Don Mattingly dealt with Matt Kemp.
First off, literally 3 weeks ago, I wrote a post detailing how Yasiel Puig could very well be one of the best hitters in Los Angeles Dodger history. Puig has been bad, very recently. He’s been so bad that the Dodgers have done a myriad of things to try to “get him going” again. These things include giving him a day to recoup himself, removing him in the middle of a game on September 7th in favor of Joc Pederson, batting him seventh on that September 7th game, and then moving him up all the way to 6th the day after that.
Lets get Mattingly’s take on this:
"“It’s a place where you’re not putting any extra pressure on him,” Mattingly said. “Who do you want the extra at-bat going to? Right now, it’s not necessarily Yasiel.”“He knows what’s going on,” Mattingly said. “You really have to come up with the mentality that you swing at strikes. Patience to me doesn’t mean trying to walk, it means getting yourself a good pitch to hit, and not in a hurry to get the at-bat over.”"
There has been some speculation on whether or not it was his hip that’s bothering him, and that goes all the way back to June 21st. Puig said
"“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “I’m just thinking of getting treatment and giving the best of myself on the field. I try to play all nine innings. Today, I couldn’t. If I’m given the opportunity to play tomorrow, I’ll try to complete all nine innings.”"
Which is really really scary. And since then he’s hitting .265/.349/.413, however this could be misleading because his OPS since August 1st is .540, while his OPS from June 23rd to July 31st is .990. Unless his hip condition has worsened, or something else has cropped up, that we don’t know about, it seems like this is just a bad slump.
It is important to note that if Puig is injured and that information is being kept from us, there is no excuse not to DL him and allow him to get healthy. But that’s another post entirely. This is about pointing out the inconsistencies Mattingly has given us. Normally I would be completely on board for Puig to be dropped in the lineup, but I am more than confident he will break out of this slump, and soon. If you remove Puig in the middle of games, if you decide “you’re not playing everyday, and I can choose to bench you at any point”, that’s destructive for a veteran player like Matt Kemp, who thankfully broke out of it. But for a young player like Puig, in his 2nd season in the league, it could lead to some major problems
The thing that gets me the most is Mattingly’s complete stubbornness to allow Puig to “figure it out” where he is most comfortable (which is clearly the #2 spot in the lineup), while on the other hand, the player Puig was removed for in that September 7th game was hot prospect Joc Pederson. Mainly because”
Well tell us how you really feel, Don Mattingly.
So Donnie is comfortable with letting a player like Joc Pederson figure it out in a pennant race because Mattingly feel’s “he’s going to hit”, never mind he struck out 26.9% of the time in AAA, and has looked miserable at the plate in the 17 plate appearances he’s had.
*It is important to note that I am NOT making a judgment of Joc as a player off of 17 plate appearances, but we are able to look at just how good he’s looked in those plate appearances, and my takeaway is that many people have SEVERELY misjudged how much strikeouts versus AAA competition really mean.*
Never mind that Yasiel Puig has exactly 115 At Bats in his entire career that have made him seem human, but his 879 previous At Bats that have made him seem like the best Dodger hitter ever.
It may seem like I am judging Don Mattingly for making a rational decision in moving a struggling hitter down until he breaks out of a slump. But the benching, the starting of a lesser talent (Joc Pederson IS an lesser talent and baseball player to Yasiel Puig, and once again that is not an indictment of Pederson), how Mattingly has handled these instances in the past, all of these lead to a picture that shows how Puig is being mishandled.
I referred to “how Mattingly has handled these instances in the past”, what I mean by this is lets go back to 2012. 2012 is the year of misery. Matt Kemp meets wall, big trade meets disappointment, old Dee Gordon meets reality. Gordon was coming off of a 2011 in which he hit .300 (in an albeit, small sample size) and seemed to be the leadoff shortstop of the future. “Jose Reyes” comps were being thrown around, he was as exciting a basestealer the Dodgers have had in 30 years.
Lets go to May of that season and look at what Mattingly said
"As much as anything, Dee kind of needs to be that guy. I know we can’t force a square peg into a round hole, but we have been able to sustain so far without Dee getting going, and being the guy we saw late in the year last year that we think will be successful,” Mattingly said. “We still think that’s going to happen, and we need to keep nurturing and keep talking to Dee to try and find that.”"
Dee Gordon, he of the .250 OBP into mid May was given every single opportunity to win over the starting role, and it wasn’t until JULY 4TH when he shredded his thumb sliding into 3rd base during a July 4th game until the organization decided to displace him with primarily LUIS CRUZ, and eventually Hanley Ramirez.
So if you want to move Yasiel Puig down to 7th and 6th in the lineup, fine, if you want to bad ANDRE ETHIER 2 SPOTS ABOVE Yasiel Puig in that September 7th game, fine if you want to bat the equally struggling Hanley Ramirez 2nd, fine, if you want to play Joc Pederson (who I believe to be a lesser baseball player than Yasiel Puig) over Yasiel because of your initial thoughts on him, fine. Show some patience with a young hitter, especially when the organization did nothing when Adrian Gonzalez hit .222/.262/.313 over the course of an entire month (June), especially when the organization continues to do nothing when Dee Gordon hits .244/.311/.309 during May, or .259/.273/.306 during August. These players have struggled for a far longer time than Puig has, and they have broken out of it with authority each time, they also were used to a routine, not being pressured to do well or your job would be taken by Joc Pederson, they were used to the routine of batting in the same spot in the lineup each and every day. With Puig, these cushions are not there, and judging by how much Don Mattingly likes Pederson in center field, I worry about a situation where Puig is just sat down and isn’t given much of a chance to succeed down the stretch, and that could be a terrible situation for the Dodgers in the long run.