Los Angeles Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig started off his career in the big leagues like a bat out of hell. He was called up on June 2 and played in his first game the following day, the Dodgers record was 23-32 at the time, and an argument could be made that he is one of the key reasons why the Dodgers have gone 54-22 since then.
Just look at his numbers.
He appeared in 38 games during the first half of the season and his batting line, .391/.422/.616, looks like something out of a video game. His BABIP, after all, was .472 and everyone had to realize his pace was clearly unsustainable. But instead many got caught up in the Puig-mania and demanded he be in the All-Star game, which set off one particular veteran pitcher who declared Puig was undeserving and Puig-ites everywhere erupted in angst against said pitcher.
Another point of contention is the fact that Puig has displayed a tremendous ability to act immature, stand-offish towards the media, disrespectful of opposing teams, and the list goes on and on. He was even recently benched for having a poor attitude and playing poorly, but has responded well to the move no matter how short-lived it was.
But here's the thing; what can you expect from a 22-year old kid who isn't used to getting the kind of attention from media and fans and is constantly having his ego blown up bigger and bigger with every clutch hit or exciting play?
He could certainly handle it better but knowing how he's been thus far with the attitude is it fair to expect a sudden change or immediate about face?
I'm certainly not expecting it to happen any time soon, meaning last week by some people's standards, but that's just me. Heck, I could care less about his attitude because his attitude isn't my problem -- it's the Dodgers and as long as he's performing on the field and they know how to handle various situations that he gets himself involved in then good for them.
Back to the numbers and overall greatness of his season before I allowed that pesky thing called a narrative get us side tracked.
Over his 37 games in the second half so far he's been nowhere near as dominant, meaning his batting average isn't approaching .400 but he's still been one of the better young hitters in the game. He's batting .299/.388/.496 and while you wouldn't know it if all you were looking at was his batting line but he's actually improved a specific aspect of his game.
During the first half of the season Puig drew just seven unintentional walks over 38 games and 161 plate appearances. Over his 37 second half games, and 160 plate appearances, he has drawn 17 unintentional walks. To put that into better perspective he was walking at just a 4.3 percent rate in the first half and is now walking at a 10.6 percent rate in the second half so far. That's a huge improvement for any player, let alone a rookie making an adjustment at the plate like that in the middle of the season.
In spite of how great Puig has been playing since his arrival in the big leagues and regardless of how many exciting plays he has already been a part of, his accomplishments will likely take a back seat to an upcoming controversy that he will find himself smack dab in the middle of.
With the season winding down there will be a no-win situation featuring Puig and that situation is the Rookie of the Year Award debate.
You see, he has the popularity and the highlight reel catches and game-winning hits but he hasn't been the best rookie this season -- at least not in my opinion. If he wins the award, and he's certainly a worthy candidate, then there will be those that support the choice but there will also be those who do not and won't leave well enough alone.
The same is true if he doesn't win the award. Those that voted for another player over him will find themselves in the position of having to profusely defend their decision to vote for said other player. This is a situation that is neither fair to the players or the voters involved, but it's one that will unfortunately happen. It's all but certain in my mind.
As great of a season Puig has been having with the Dodgers there is one other rookie in the National League that has been having an even better one. Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez, in case you were wondering who I was referring to, is not only having the better overall season but Fernandez has also put himself in the Cy Young debate -- although he's unlikely to win.
That's something that can't be said of Puig and the NL MVP Award just as you can't say, without a doubt, that Puig's rookie year has been greater than Fernandez's.
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