The Dodgers were on ESPN yesterday, and there was unsurprisingly a bunch of discussion about Yasiel Puig. Of particular note by the broadcasters, though, was how he still had to learn discipline. Early in the game they were talking about his pitch selection and how he had to learn how to avoid pitches out of the zone, but later in the game they kept clarifying that they meant he needed to be disciplined in other aspects as well.
I’m guessing a big part of the slight alteration was because they looked pretty dumb saying he needed to work on not chasing pitches when he kept getting deeper and deeper into counts during the game. He saw 18 pitches in four plate appearances yesterday, with one of those being a first pitch hit-by-pitch.
But the point of this isn’t just to point-and-laugh about how they were literally being proven wrong as they spoke, but rather to highlight an overall trend with Puig’s discipline — both at the plate and in general — that was easy enough to find if they cared to dig a bit and didn’t just rely on what they thought seemed right.
To put his 3.69 P/PA in August in context, Adrian Gonzalez has seen 3.64 P/PA in 2013 and nobody would dare question his approach. Furthermore, it was the month with his biggest sample size to date, and if the trend continues, his 3.96 early into September would have him tied for 30th in the NL on the year, above Andre Ethier.
Furthermore, since he took his medicine and got benched — and he took it like a pro — he has noticeably made an effort to hit the cut-off man on throws where he doesn’t have a chance and has stopped running into the dumbest of outs on the basepaths. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him make either mistake once since then, and at times I think he could have made the play.
Look, I get the discussion, as most everybody is interested in tracking the evolution of Puig, both on the field and off the field. And it’s not easy keeping up with his development as a player because he’s changing so rapidly, but these have been areas of his game that have been pretty obviously improving on a regular basis.
The point isn’t that Puig’s already a finished product, but to most watching him on a day-to-day basis, it’s clear the change is already in progress and has been underway since he arrived in June.