Why Even Yasiel Puig Has Not Been Able to Save the L.A. Dodgers' Letdown Season
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Yasiel Puig, it seems, can do just about anything. Except get the Los Angeles Dodgers to win baseball games.
The 22-year-old rookie sensation went 2-for-4 Friday night—his 11th multi-hit game in his first 17 career contests—and yet still couldn't prevent the Dodgers from losing to the San Diego Padres, 5-2.
The defeat was L.A.'s ninth in its past 12 and dropped the club to 30-42, a season-worst 12 games below .500.
So much for the idea that Puig is the Dodgers' savior this season.
In case you think that recent won-loss record was cherry-picked, Los Angeles has gone just 7-12 overall since Puig made his debut on June 3.
There's also this: Before Puig, the Dodgers were 8.5 back in the NL West; after Puig, they're 9.5 out entering play Saturday.
All this despite the fact that Puig himself has had a historically productive start to his MLB career. The Cuban import is 30-for-66 (.455) with six homers, 12 RBI, 13 runs and a pair of steals.
Even when a player is as ridiculously hot as Puig has been, it's hard for a team as a whole to win games when it's being outscored as the Dodgers have been. With Puig, L.A. has given up 70 runs—4.1 per game—but tallied only 60—3.5 per game.
Pre-Puig the Dodgers were surrendering 4.3 runs per and scoring—get this—3.5 runs per game. Puig's individual performance has had exactly zero impact on the team's ability to generate runs.
You could argue that L.A. would be much worse offensively sans Puig, which is almost definitely true, but it's still rather disheartening for the Dodgers that they've been unable to take advantage of deploying baseball's hottest hitter over the past three weeks.
Obviously, the elephant in the room here is that the Dodgers only called up Puig because their outfield was in shambles, what with both Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, two of the the club's best hitters, being felled by hamstring injuries in the span of a couple games.
To be clear, Puig isn't to blame for his team's continued overall struggles, particularly on offense. If anything, what this is proving is how darn near impossible it is in baseball for just one player to be the driving force behind a team's turnaround.
That's what happens, though, when a lineup is missing key hitters and is instead forced to use fill-ins on a regular basis.
In Friday's loss to the Padres, for instance, the Dodgers' wheel of chance landed on Skip Schumaker (.646 OPS) and Elian Herrera, who was just called up from the minors.
In addition to those two, the team has been forced to give far, far too many plate appearances to the likes of Nick Punto (.653 OPS), Dee Gordon (.532), Justin Sellers (.510) and Luis Cruz (.344). The primary reason? Shortstop Hanley Ramirez (1.042 OPS) has spent more time on the DL than in the lineup.
It also doesn't help when first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the one hitter who's been healthy and relatively productive all season, has seen his average and OPS drop from .326 and .884 to .299 and .811 since Puig has come aboard.
A season-long problem remains as the Dodgers are still in serious need of some slugging.
To wit, among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, the team leader in that category is Crawford (.470 SLG), who's nobody's idea of a slugger and who's also been out since June 2, the day before Puig's arrival.
The Dodgers currently sport a .375 slugging percentage as a whole, bad for fourth-worst in the sport.
Again, one man can't do it all. Even when that one man is Puig.
If there is any good news, it's that Kemp, slated to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday, is making his way back with designs of returning next week.
Mattingly: Kemp will DH for AAA tomorrow, hopefully 2-3 more in field, then return to #Dodgers.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) June 22, 2013
But if his early-season struggles are any indication, Kemp, who has been sidelined since May 30 for his bum hammy, may not help much. The 2011 NL MVP runner-up, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery that may have hampered him to this point, has a triple-slash line of just .251/.305/.335.
Since Puig's debut, the Dodgers haven't been hurting for excitement and energy—they've been hurting for offense. And wins.
Incredible as Puig has been to this point, he's done nothing to help the Dodgers' overall production or, more importantly, their position in the standings.
What's scary, then, is what is going to happen to baseball's most disappointing team once Puig cools off.
Despite popular belief, that will happen. He's not going to hit over .400 all year.
And even if Puig somehow does that, it still might not be enough to do the one thing that matters most.
Get the Dodgers to win games.
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