Yasiel Puig and the 20 Most Impressive All-Time Starts to an MLB Career

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IJune 25, 2013

Yasiel Puig and the 20 Most Impressive All-Time Starts to an MLB Career

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    Yasiel Puig's Major League Baseball career is off to an impressive start, though this is hardly the first time we've seen immediate dominance from a young player. In past generations and even recently, rookies have enjoyed comparable success following their initial call-up.

    Entering June 25, Puig is 20 games into MLB life. The sample isn't insignificant, but anything smaller would be.

    Therefore, the individuals on this list—those who wowed us as fantastic freshmen—made it because they maintained a high quality of performance for at least as long as Puig has. For starting pitchers and relievers, we looked at career-opening stretches of at least five and 10 games, respectively.

    Many of the truly timeless first-year performances began with awkward swings and shaky command. Even Ryan Braun and Ted Williams, who finished with fantastic numbers, dealt with dry spells during series early in their careers.

    They failed to make the cut.

    Still, the typical baseball fan shouldn't have much trouble recognizing these 20 names. They hogged headlines for weeks, months or even an entire season before finally cooling off.

     

    All game logs and monthly splits provided by Baseball-Reference.com.

Impressive Rookies*

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    Many of us conveniently forget that players like Fred Lynn, Buster Posey, Mike Trout and Fernando Valenzuela were rookie sensations in their second major league seasons.

    Major League Baseball is weird like that, allowing youngsters to retain their prospect status if they don't see enough plate appearances, innings pitched or days on the active roster.

    Of course, players who lucked out in such a way and had an entire offseason to fine-tune their bodies and game plans were not considered for this article. We're only interested in those who truly surged out of the starting gate.

20. Vince Coleman (St. Louis Cardinals, 1985)

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    Stealing 21 bases as a rookie is a great accomplishment.

    By doing so through only 20 career games, Vince Coleman earned inclusion on this prestigious list. He also proved to be an effective outfielder with two assists during those first few memorable weeks.

    The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals actually limped to an 8-12 record despite his individual efforts.

    However, Coleman remained in the leadoff spot throughout the season as they finished with 101 wins and the National League pennant.

     

    1985 game log (April 18-May 9)

    Date Tm   Opp Rslt PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    Apr 18 STL   MON L,1-7 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 .333 .500 .333 .833
    Apr 19 STL   PIT W,5-4 5 1 4 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 .625 .667 1.000 1.667
    Apr 20 STL   PIT W,4-3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .417 .462 .667 1.128
    Apr 21 STL   PIT W,6-0 5 1 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 3 .467 .556 .667 1.222
    Apr 22 STL   NYM L,6-7 5 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 .400 .478 .550 1.028
    Apr 23 STL   NYM W,8-3 5 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 .360 .429 .480 .909
    Apr 24 STL   NYM W,5-1 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .345 .406 .448 .855
    Apr 25 STL @ MON L,2-4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .389 .424 .813
    Apr 26 STL @ MON L,5-10 5 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 2 .324 .390 .432 .823
    Apr 27 STL @ MON L,3-8 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .293 .356 .390 .746
    Apr 28 STL @ MON L,3-5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 .289 .360 .378 .738
    Apr 30 STL   LAD W,6-1 5 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .300 .364 .400 .764
    May 1 STL   LAD L,1-2 5 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .291 .350 .418 .768
    May 3 STL   SFG W,8-1 5 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 2 .305 .369 .441 .810
    May 4 STL   SFG W,6-4 5 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 3 .317 .386 .444 .830
    May 5 STL   SFG L,0-5 4 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .328 .392 .448 .840
    May 6 STL   SDP W,5-2 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .324 .385 .437 .821
    May 7 STL   SDP L,2-12 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .303 .361 .408 .769
    May 8 STL @ LAD L,2-5 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .300 .356 .400 .756
    May 9 STL @ LAD W,5-4 5 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 1 .294 .348 .400 .748

19. Brad Ziegler (Oakland Athletics, 2008)

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    Talk about an unlikely success story.

    Brad Ziegler began his professional career at 23 years old, and prior to 2007 (his age-27 campaign), the right-hander was just a mediocre starter in the minors.

    He rose quickly when he dropped his arm angle and learned to embrace relief work.

    According to FanGraphs, Ziegler was reliant on an 85 mile-per-hour fastball as a rookie, throwing it 86.6 percent of the time. Yet his great location and tricky release point enabled an outstanding streak.

    He opened his Oakland Athletics career with 39 consecutive innings of scoreless pitching before B.J. Upton ruined everybody's fun on August 14. An unsustainable BABIP had a lot to do with it, but so did Ziegler's remarkable ability to induce ground balls.

     

    2008 game log (May 31-August 12)

    Date Tm   Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA Pit GB FB
    May 31 OAK @ TEX L,4-8 0.1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 5 1 0
    Jun 3 OAK   DET W,5-4 1.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 27 4 1
    Jun 4 OAK   DET W,10-2 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 11 2 1
    Jun 7 OAK   LAA L,3-5 1.2 1 0 0 0 2 0 0.00 16 2 2
    Jun 8 OAK   LAA W,7-3 1.2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.00 18 2 1
    Jun 12 OAK   NYY L,1-4 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 9 3 0
    Jun 14 OAK @ SFG W,4-0 0.2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 9 3 0
    Jun 18 OAK @ ARI L,1-11 1.0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 12 2 2
    Jun 19 OAK @ ARI L,1-2 1.1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0.00 14 3 1
    Jun 20 OAK   FLA W,7-6 0.1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 14 2 1
    Jun 21 OAK   FLA L,4-6 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 11 2 0
    Jun 27 OAK   SFG W,4-1 0.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 6 0 1
    Jun 29 OAK   SFG L,1-11 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 9 1 1
    Jul 1 OAK @ LAA L,3-5 2.0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0.00 24 3 0
    Jul 4 OAK @ CHW W,7-1 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 13 1 1
    Jul 7 OAK   SEA W,4-3 2.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 21 4 1
    Jul 10 OAK   SEA W,3-2 1.0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0.00 22 3 1
    Jul 12 OAK   LAA L,1-4 1.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 13 1 2
    Jul 13 OAK   LAA L,3-4 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 1 1 0
    Jul 19 OAK @ NYY L,3-4 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0.00 18 2 0
    Jul 22 OAK @ TBR W,8-1 2.0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0.00 37 6 2
    Jul 25 OAK   TEX L,6-14 1.1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 13 2 3
    Jul 27 OAK   TEX W,6-5 2.0 2 0 0 0 3 0 0.00 27 3 1
    Jul 30 OAK   KCR L,3-4 3.0 2 0 0 1 1 0 0.00 31 7 0
    Aug 1 OAK @ BOS L,1-2 2.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00 29 3 3
    Aug 5 OAK @ TOR L,3-4 2.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.00 20 5 0
    Aug 7 OAK @ TOR L,4-6 1.0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 19 3 2
    Aug 8 OAK @ DET W,4-2 2.0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0.00 30 2 1
    Aug 12 OAK   TBR W,2-1 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 11 2 2

18. Terry Pendleton (St. Louis Cardinals, 1984)

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    Terry Pendleton was called up for the St. Louis Cardinals the year before Vince Coleman, seizing the third baseman's job and a spot in the middle of the batting order.

    The Cards waited until the second half of 1984 to recall the short switch-hitter from the minors, and he made them regret not doing it sooner.

    Pendleton didn't hit for much power until later in his career, but he sure could put the bat on the ball. He struck out only three times through his first 65 MLB plate appearances. His batting average didn't drop below .400 until the middle of August.

     

    1984 game log (July 18-August 7)

    Date Tm   Opp Rslt PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    Jul 18 STL   SFG W,8-4 6 1 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 .600 .667 .600 1.267
    Jul 19 STL   LAD L,0-10 3 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .556 .625 1.181
    Jul 20 STL   LAD W,10-5 4 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .538 .667 1.205
    Jul 21 STL   LAD L,1-3 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .438 .471 .563 1.033
    Jul 22 STL   LAD W,7-6 4 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .450 .476 .550 1.026
    Jul 23 STL @ NYM L,3-4 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .400 .423 .480 .903
    Jul 24 STL @ NYM L,8-9 5 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 .414 .452 .483 .934
    Jul 25 STL @ NYM L,3-9 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .375 .429 .438 .866
    Jul 27 STL @ PIT W,3-2 5 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .432 .475 .486 .961
    Jul 28 STL @ PIT W,5-1 4 1 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 .463 .500 .512 1.012
    Jul 29 STL @ PIT W,4-3 4 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .444 .479 .489 .968
    Jul 30 STL   NYM W,3-1 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 .438 .462 .479 .941
    Jul 31 STL   NYM W,6-3 4 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .462 .482 .500 .982
    Aug 1 STL   NYM W,11-2 5 2 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .482 .508 .536 1.044
    Aug 2 STL   PHI L,2-3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .450 .477 .500 .977
    Aug 3 STL   PHI W,4-3 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .438 .464 .484 .948
    Aug 4 STL   PHI W,3-2 4 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 .456 .479