Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig had a sensational 2013 regular season. After a June callup, Puig set the baseball world on fire, posting an otherworldly .436/.467/.713 line in his first month. He didn’t maintain that pace, but still, at the end of the year, only Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, and Chris Davis could top Puig’s 160 OPS+.
He followed up his excellent regular season with a strong NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, hitting .471/.500/.529, and helping the Dodgers advance to the NLCS.
The first two games of the NLCS have been a different story. The Dodgers offense has managed just two runs in 22 innings. Puig is 0-10 with six strikeouts, including a golden sombrero performance in Game Two.
Puig is an exceptionally aggressive hitter who tends to chase pitches out of the strike zone. No hitter who had at least 400 plate appearances in 2013 whiffed at a greater frequency than Puig.
Pitchers tried to take advantage of his aggressiveness, and only four hitters saw a lower percentage of pitches in the strike zone. Sometimes Puig obliged them by swinging and missing, and sometimes he hit the ball out of the ballpark. According to BrooksBaseball, seven of Puig’s 19 homeruns came on pitches out of the strike zone.
Of the 56 pitches Puig has seen in the NLCS, only 19 of them have been in the strike zone. Of the 37 other pitches, Puig has swung at 11, and whiffed seven times. All told, Puig has missed on 11 of his 24 swings.
Puig has also struck out looking twice in the series, something he did just nine times the entire regular season. This is a hitter that twice went four weeks between looking strikeouts. In just one instance did he strike out looking in two consecutive games.
All this isn’t to say that Yasiel Puig will be neutralized for the rest of the series. Puig is a very talented and dangerous hitter. Though he’s looked lost at the plate in the first two games, he could break out at any time.
Right now, the Cardinals pitchers have a game plan that they are executing very well, and not just against Puig. Call it postseason inexperience or a case of jitters for a young hitter, but I’m sure the Cardinals aren’t any less afraid of Puig than they were entering the series.