Dodgers: Yasiel Puig a Candidate for Comeback Player of the Year
By now most, if not all of you saw the heroics of Yasiel Puig last night when he scorched a line drive to the left-center gap to cap off a three-run ninth inning comeback win to seal the sweep for the Dodgers.
If not, you can watch it here. For Dodgers’ fans, there’s no way around it anymore, Puig is having his best full season and his at-bat last night to play the hero showed every bit why this is his best season.
Puig remained poised in the pressure of the moment and stayed within himself to get the job done, and the result was a line drive to the wall to win the game.
For most of this season, Puig has been an after thought for this team. With the seasons that Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner are having Puig’s production has faded from the spot light with the newer, younger talent taking over.
He’s hit either 8th or 9th in 69 of his 113 games played this season. However, that spot in the lineup has not stopped Puig from being the “wild horse” that Vin Scully deemed him out to be.
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Puig is quietly putting together a solid year for the Dodgers in right field. With a slash line of .253/.338/.465 and a career high in home runs (21), Puig seems to have finally put all his tools together to become a viable asset to a championship team. But is that enough for Puig to win NL Comeback Player of the Year?
Well first off, if you solely read the headlines from last season you would think Puig had a horrible season. Puig battled injuries, lost his starting job, was sent down to Triple-A for a month and found his name in the middle of trade rumors. Yikes!
But in all reality, the numbers he posted last season weren’t all that bad. .263/.323/.416, 11 home runs, 14 RBI in 104 games that translates to a 1.0 WAR. Those are modest numbers for a player that battled through adversary throughout the season. Granted, a shell of his 2013 form, but solid.
So what about this year?
This year Puig is much improved in nearly every statistical category that you’d examine. Puig has more home runs (21), more runs scored (55), more RBI (57) and more stolen bases (12). His slash line has improved in all but one category (batting average). But what’s most impressive is his career high walk rate.
Prior to this season, Puig’s highest walk rate was 10.5 % back in 2014. This season Puig has an 11.7 BB%, that’s nearly double his walk rate of last season (6.5%). Another stat that Puig has set a new career high in is his strikeout percentage. Prior to this season, Puig’s lowest strikeout percentage was 19.4% back in 2014. This season he’s improved that by nearly 2% and holds a 17.8% strikeout percentage.
While those numbers don’t come across as world beaters, they are the reason why Puig has been so important to the Dodgers success this season. We know about his relationship with Turner Ward and how he’s adopted a more relaxed approach at the plate. But I think the fact that he’s surrounded by all these other good players has allowed him to release the pressure on himself of carrying the team.
Does he have the stats to win Comeback Player of the Year? Maybe not. There are a lot of viable candidates that have posted more improved numbers than Puig. When you look at the seasons that Zack Greinke, Greg Holland, Andrew McCutchen, and even both Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper; there are a plethora of options for voters to choose from.
While Puig may not win Comeback Player of the Year, he deserves to be in the top five. The award would be a nice validation for Puig’s hard work. But as Puig said yesterday, “I’ll see you in the World Series.”