Monday, July 01, 2013

Watching Yasiel Puig Hit...Every Single Time

Nice piece by Grant Brisbee, lead writer on McCovey Chronicles, about Yasiel Puig's batting. Surprisingly, despite being a Giants fan, this article is pretty laudatory:

The other part of me wanted to watch all of them because Puig is one of the most fascinating hitters in recent years. And I did notice a few things about Puig and his approach, which I'll list here:

1. He's an aggressive hitter

I almost led with "he's talented" or "he's a big dude" because they would be just as revelatory. But even though I knew this, I was still surprised at how aggressive. Of his 38 hits so far, 27 came within the first two pitches of the at-bat. Fourteen came on the first pitch of the at-bat.

2. Yes, there have been a lot of infield hits

BABIPuig, as it were. Nine of his 38 hits have been infield hits, including two bunts. So if you wanted to know if Puig is going to hit .427 for his career, probably not. But his speed will keep him in the infield-hit business for a while, so you can't just eliminate his infield hits and say "Okay, he's really only hit .326 so far. Calm down, everybody." Those hits count, too.

3. He is not a bad-ball hitter

This was the biggest surprise for me. His last hit was a game-winning single through the hole on the left side. It came on an 0-2 slider, and it was pretty close to where Justin De Fratus probably wanted to throw it.

It was off the plate, just below the outside corner of the zone. And it made me wonder if he was a bad-ball hitter, the kind of guy who can hit pitches at his toes, like Pablo Sandoval or Vladimir Guerrero. He is not.

The article goes on to mention two more points, plus includes a ton of need gifs and videos and pitch location graphs; but here's the ending:

Madison Bumgarner on that home run: "It didn’t make much sense for me."

Nope. Nope, it sure didn't. But it wasn't just that at-bat. Puig's first major-league hit was on a ball in the low-right corner of the zone. His third hit was on a fastball up that was right on the outside edge. Almost a quarter of his hits have come on balls that I marked as "on the edge."

Try reconciling that. He can pull balls that should be in on his hands because he stands so far away, but he has no problem with pitches on the outside part of the plate, either.

Eventually the league will make an adjustment. A hitter this aggressive can't keep hitting .400 and pulling balls on the outside corner for hits. The league will make an adjustment, and Puig will make a counter-adjustment. This has been the paradigm for a century or so. I'm not smart enough to know what that adjustment is, though. Don't throw Puig strikes, for one. But if you throw him balls, make sure they aren't off the plate on the inside. Really, the perfect pitch to Puig might be the one that had the game-winning hit on in the Dodgers' last game against the Phillies. So … don't do that, either?

At this time last year, anonymous scouts were saying things like, "I'm not even sure if we'd use a first-round pick on Puig if he were in the draft." Well, say. Looks like he's kind of good. And when you watch exactly how he's doing it, it's hard to know how he's doing it at all. This shouldn't be real.

It's definitely surreal, whether you wear Dodger blue or Giants orange. Yasiel Puig has made this a very exciting June.