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« Mike Trout Tightens His Strike Zone, Gets Even Better | Main | Jose Fernandez: Lineup Navigator »

Yasiel Puig's Beautiful, Reckless Plate Approach

Roughly 2,400 miles separate Yasiel Puig's hometown of Cienfuegos, Cuba from his new home in Chavez Ravine. Incidentally, 2,400 miles is also about the size of the rookie sensation's strike zone. Puig has hacked, slashed and dashed his way to arguably the greatest offensive start in major league history, as his 191 OPS+ trails that of only Shoeless Joe Jackson (193 OPS+ in 1911) among batters getting 200-plus plate appearances during their rookie season. Whether he can sustain that success is another matter entirely. Here's a closer look at how Puigmania is setting records and making a mockery of baseball orthodoxy.

  • Puig is seriously stretching his strike zone, chasing 36% of pitches thrown off the plate (27% MLB average). Pitchers have taken note, as Puig has seen fewer strikes (40% of his total pitches) than all hitters save for Pablo Sandoval. Lunging at so many would-be balls usually spells doom for hitters-- after all, they're batting a collective .178 when swinging at a pitch thrown out of the zone this season. But Puig? He's hitting .280 when he chases a pitch.
  • The 22-year-old is swinging and missing -- a lot. Puig has the third-highest miss rate (37%) among batters taking at least 200 trips to the plate, making more contact than just Chris Carter and Pedro Alvarez. Carter is batting .210, and Alvarez .239. Puig currently sports a .377 average.He has been especially whiff-tastic -- yet still productive -- against fastballs. Puig's fastball miss rate (33%) is more than double the MLB average (16%), but his slugging percentage against the heat (.568) easily beats the big league mean (.433).
  • Considering that Puig has belted 11 home runs and is slugging .600, you would think that he's lofting pitches into the air all the time. However, the 6-foot-3, 245 pounder has actually hit far more ground balls (53%) than the MLB average (46%). He's just reaching base on those grounders like no one else -- Puig has an MLB-best .415 average when he chops the ball into the grass, 170 points above the big league average. Despite only making his debut in early June, Puig already ranks in the top 20 among all hitters in infield hits (19).

Puig is immensely talented, but he has also enjoyed the sort of luck that even Powerball jackpot winners would envy. He has the highest batting average on balls in play (.474) ever for a player during a season in which he gets over 200 plate appearances, and it's not even close. Ty Cobb (.444 in 1911) and Jackson (.434, also in 1911) rank a distant second and third, respectively. For Puigmania to persist, L.A.'s newest star will have to shore up plate approach.

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