Like the Dodgers, Yasiel Puig has started off slow with the bat. But his numbers do not show how well he has actually been playing.
Yasiel Puig has started off very slow in 2018, with a .205/.250/.250 slash line and no home runs. After a breakout year in 2017, he was expected to take the next step in 2018, but so far, nada. However, as bad as his stats are, he has been hitting the ball well; he just has nothing to show for it.
The only negative metric he has working against him right now is his walk rate of just 6.3% after walking a career-high 11.2% last year. But, he has matured a bit and has shown the ability to be patient so expect that number to increase. It is not just a Puig problem, but a problem throughout the whole team. No one is giving the competitive at-bats they did last year.
And you can see that he may also be pressing at the plate because someone has to do something to help the offense break out each game. And knowing his personality, he is taking it upon himself to be that guy; thus him trying to do too much.
Now to the positives. Puig is striking even less this year than last when he set a career-low of 17.5%. This year that number has gone down to 16.7%. This is pretty interesting when you take into account that he is swinging at pitches out of the strike zone identical to his career rate, but making a by far career-low on contact on those pitches.
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His BABIP of .243 is a career-low and well below the MLB average of around .300, showing that he has been getting unlucky. He is putting the ball in play but not getting rewarded.
This is especially true when you take into account the type of account he is making. According to Statcast, the right fielder has hit 48.65% of his balls in play at 95 mph or faster (considered hard-hit).
His average exit velocity on all balls in play is 93.8 mph and 100.9 mph on all his hits. So there is no question he is seeing the ball well and making terrific contact. And the goose egg in the home run column would have disappeared if not for a defensive gem from Trayce Thompson that saw the Athletic rob the Cuban of his first home run.
If he continues to hit the ball so hard, the hits will eventually drop. It is a more telling sign for long-term performance. If you consistently smoke the ball as he has, you have more success than failure in the long run. And we have to realize that baseball is the streakiest of all sports, both for the team and individual performances. And Yasiel is one of the more streakier ones.
But this time he is actually getting unlucky. He is playing as good as one can with a .500 OPS. Also, his defense is still excellent, which alone makes him valuable. It is only a matter of time before he explodes and starts producing like the three-hole hitter he is serving as at the moment. Once the baseball gods give him the good karma he deserves, watch out.