The greatest hitter in baseball.
It's a common refrain for Yasiel Puig, and it's hard to argue that fact in some respects. Here's one fact that shows how amazing Puig has been.
Puig had 44 hits in June. That's the second most in franchise history for any month (Pete Coscarart had 48 hits in September 1939). The 44 hits were the second most, ever, for a player in his first calendar month behind the 48 hits Joe DiMaggio had in May 1936. It can be argued that no hitter who ever lived began their career better as through 27 games Puig is hitting .443 with a .473 OBP and .745 SLG, not to mention that he has eight homers, 17 RBIs, 21 runs scored and four steals.
I've been talking about Puig, on and on, each day on my radio show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (5 PM EDT Monday-Friday, Sirius210, XM87). However, not everyone can hear me – though you totally should cause I'm really interesting/entertaining – so I thought I would put to paper what I've been saying every day when someone calls in and wants to trade Andrew McCutchen or Stephen Strasburg for Mr. Puig.
Puig isn't going to hit .443. He isn't going to hit .400. Hell, he would be lucky as all get out to hit .350.
Let's give him four at-bats per game the rest of the way and say he plays 75 of the Dodgers final 80 games. That would give him 300 at-bats. Add in his current work and we'd be looking at 406 total at-bats. If he hit .350 this season, a massive number, he would have 142 hits in 406 at-bats. That means, over his final 300 at-bats, he would hit .317. Is that doable? I find it hard to believe it is. Not only does logic tell me that's nuts, the numbers do too. Puig has a .513 BABIP. The last time anyone, Trout, Pujols, Cabrera etc., anyone had a BABIP of .400 in a season was Jose Hernandez at .404 in 2002. It's been a decade since someone pulled off .400. Need I say more? It's even crazier to see that number when you note that his line drive rate is 21.0 percent. That's only one percent above the league average. The cherry on top is that he's walked four times this season (once intentionally) leading to a pathetic 0.18 BB/K ratio. Eventually an approach like that catches up to you – it always does (hello Starling Marte who hit .327 in April and has hit .265 since).
He has ample power, but this is stupid. The league average for fly ball rate is about 35 percent. Right now Puig's fly ball rate is 28.4 percent. He's well below average. You can't be a 40 homer bat at that level (with eight homers in 27 games he's on a 150 game pace for more than 40 big flies). That 28.4 percent fly ball rate of Puig would tie him for 136th in baseball, a tenth behind Dustin Pedroia and four tenths behind Martin Prado and Ichiro Suzuki. See what I mean about there being no way he's a 40 homer bat at that rate? Moving to his HR/F ratio, Puig currently has a mark of 34.8 percent. (A) No batter in baseball had a mark of 30 percent last season. Only two men have a mark above 27 percent right now (Chris Davis at 32.3 and Pedro Alvarez at 31.3). In fact, there is only one man in baseball with a HR/F ratio over 19 percent who has a fly ball rate under 30 percent – Joey Votto (28.4 fly ball rate, 20.3 HR/F). To put it another way, you cannot be a league leader in homers when you have a ground ball rate of over 50 percent. It just doesn't happen.
We have a guy who is performing as well as any player who has ever pulled on a uniform. That same guy also has a BABIP mark that is going to come down .100 points if not more. He has an absoluately pathetic BB/K mark. His contract rate of 73 percent is well below the league average (about 78 percent). His HR/F ratio is also at an unsustainable pace. He hits as many fly balls as Ichiro Suzuki yet is on a 40 homer pace.
Let me say it clearly.
There is ZERO chance that Puig maintains his BABIP and HR/F. I've never said anything that was more certain.
I'm not arguing that he won't be an impressive fantasy performer the rest of the way. I'm merely trying to point out that he isn't Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Barry Bonds rolled into one. Be very careful that you don't inflate the value of Puig to levels that he simply has no chance to maintain.
For more on his hot start, see this ESPN report.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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