Amid everything that was so familiar about a 2013 Dodger defeat – fielding stumbles, poor situational hitting and a bullpen meltdown wasting a capable starting outing – there was something new about Thursday’s 6-3 loss to San Diego: fan frustration with Yasiel Puig.
What’s remarkable – and speaks volumes – is that it came in a game in which Puig hit yet another home run, his sixth (in 16 games) of the season, more than all but one other Dodger.
But after that first-inning, first-pitch blast, Puig struck out a career-high three times, chasing bad pitches like a young Raul Mondesi or Matt Kemp, and from then on you could hear the I told you sos.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com provides the details of Puig’s second at-bat against Jason Marquis:
… with two on and no out in the third inning, he took a sinker he thought was too far inside and stared at the umpire.
“It seemed to irritate Yasiel and he started to swing at pitches out of the strike zone, and the rest of the night Marquis didn’t give in,” Mattingly said. “Yasiel has been fairly patient, tonight [he was] more aggressive out of the strike zone.”
He swung wildly at the next sinker and foul-tipped it. Marquis then came with a pair of down-and-away sliders Puig flailed at. Puig stared at Marquis as he headed toward the dugout and Marquis stared back. …
By the time Puig followed Skip Schumaker’s double-play grounder with a game-ending strikeout in the ninth – turning what for a brief moment looked like the potential for a stirring Dodger comeback into a deeper dive into last place – numerous Dodger fans on Twitter were not only chastising Puig but instructing him how he needs to change his stance.
Reminder: Puig has a 1.267 OPS at this moment.
Three points that should be obvious need to be stated:
• Baseball is a game of adjustments, and without a doubt, at some point Puig will need to make them. It’s understandable why alarm bells went off for fans with visions of a struggling Mondesi or Kemp. It was at a similar stage in his debut – after seven homers and a 1.287 OPS in his first 15 career games – that Kemp’s game first went south, pushing him back to the minors four weeks later.
• That being said, it’s one thing for fans to be frustrated, but after what he’s accomplished, Puig deserves more than three bad at-bats before the wolves come out, much less before people start tinkering with his stance in response to what simply might have been a night of frustration of his own. He is not going to spend his career flirting with a .500 batting average, so there needs to be some amount of pain tolerance.
• Puig is the least of the Dodgers’ worries right now.
The game was not without its highlights. Here’s one, courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez.
But the Padres outdid the Dodgers.
* * *
For you Manny Mota fans out there – and how could you not be one – here’s a detailed piece from Bruce Markusen at the Hardball Times on the famed Dodger pinch-hitter, who will be inducted into the Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals this summer.
Puig remains the fun in Dodgers.
Hearing Vin delight in Puig, and comment on him, is also a pleasure.
Repeating my Facebook comment: Anyone who can’t hack the inevitable growing pains with our young Puig needs to get out now. He’s been a blessing and a pleasure but he’s still got plenty to learn–and he will. i have great faith in his ability to evolve. Also he’s human, and will have days where he k’s. now if only he could pitch out of the pen. Those three things you mention are reason they are where they are right now (and injuries). Have to expect some of that to get better but right now it’s frustrating.
Also strange or maybe I’m imagining it but sure feels like inordinate amount of web gems vs. dodgers this year, as opposed to our web turds.
Pitching out of the pen, hmm–I like it
With that arm…..hmm……
I only wish that people were willing to put the same faith in Dee.
Nothing has annoyed me more this season, nothing, than people booing players like Kemp or now Puig. It’s clueless. Learn baseball, people.
I don’t think anyone booed Puig, least of all Dodger fans in San Diego. I was reacting to the Twitter chatter.
Got it, thanks. One thing about living on the east coast, I slept though last night’s game.
To mike_tink, per the comments in the previous topic…
Hi Mike – I’m fine, thanks for the concern. With the reduced traffic here on DT, I hadn’t been checking the comments, although I still read all Jon’s columns now that he’s resumed writing them. Maybe I should go back to reading the comments here too; seems like they are more on-topic than on some other Dodger sites.
Yeah, more fun picking on Dre. Oh, wait…
The key word in Jon’s whole piece is YOUNG. Joey Cora stated on MLB Network recently that he felt Puig was rushed to the majors and that the true test will come when he has a slump — and he will. One bad game doesn’t end a career, but it may have brought fans back to reality that Puig isn’t going to hit .470 for his career. Three bad ABs, Young, One game. New game tonight.
I suppose we could have waited for him to have a slump in the minors, but that might have taken a while. ;-)
I also think against any good righty, he’ll have his struggles at times, even after he’s matured (heck Kemp even when at his best has flailed vs righties at times). I expect he’ll be crushing lefties for a long time though, and of course he did blast a home run on first pitch vs righty Marquis, who then quickly learned what not to throw him. Pitchers will adapt, Puig will adapt, too.
IIRC, Marquis handled him pretty well last time out. Puig may have guessed Marquis would start him off with the same thing and lay in ambush.
If so, quoting the old TV series A Team, I love it when a plan comes together.
I used to want Kemp to get a take sign and now have thought Puig should get a few. Maybe get him to take pitches that if they were sliders would wind up unhittable and swing at those that were higher.
How would this work?
Well, it works better on paper but here is a try at answering your question.
“plan” — Start every at-bat as if the count were 3 & 0 and swing only if he gets a pitch that would fit in a small box of his choosing. Repeat until he gets two strikes.
Take a controlled protect-the-plate swing when he has two strikes.
When pitchers realize they have to throw strikes again or they will walk him every time, he goes back to being more aggressive like he is now. If they stop throwing strikes, go back to the “plan”.
I am going to assume that hard sliders that wind up unhitable, low and away, and out of the strike zone come up to the plate in the fourth quadrant before breaking down and away out of the strike zone. If so, unless, Kemp and Puig have two strikes, leave those pitches alone. They would have pitches coming into the other three quadrants to swing at.
Sounds complicated, but it would have to be.
No new ground here, but link looks at some low payroll teams staying competitive.
Big spending doesn’t automatically result in big winning. A truth known to serious fans but not at all clear to average fans, who then come down on high-salaried players when they’re not superhuman and don’t lead their teams to 125-win seasons and 5 WS titles in a row..
(Second graph MHO, not lifted from link (or even from Linkmeister) ;’-]).
I admit I was puzzled for a minute. Pleased that someone liked what I’d done, but then puzzled as to what it was. ;)
Having seen the young Manny Mota as a Tacoma Giant (they will gnever be Gnats), I am always delighted to read his name. I had scorecard/program with his autograph from then, but somehow my mother lost it.
The Tacoma Giants were just before my time. However, my very first game (as a five-year old) was Opening Day, 1969 and the Tacoma Cubs.
I was at the UW by then, watching the Seattle Pilots at Sicks Stadium.
Puig’s ABs last night didn’t bother me as much as him air-mailing a throw to third on a play in which he had NO chance to throw the runner out … and thus allowed the runner from first to take second.
Strikeouts are physical ‘errors’. Throwing to the wrong base is a mental one.
One I can deal with. The other, I’m less forgiving.
very good post