Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Yasiel Puig--A Complete Perspective

I've been as guilty as anyone in gushing over the start of Yasiel Puig's career, doing daily updates at one point and written one post dedicated specifically to him. I decided to look at his start in a fuller context. To begin, I went to Baseball-Reference and used the Play Index feature to find all the players who played in at least 21 of their first 26 games (don't ask). I then filtered to include only those players with 60 or more plate appearances in those games. From 1916 to 2013, this sample (non-pitchers excluded) is 2,222 players. I ranked them by seven categories and will show the top 10 in baseball history for each. All numbers are through July 1st, 2013.

First is plate appearances:

I'll show it later, but Puig ranks 374th in plate appearances in his first 26 games. This will have an impact in some of the numbers to follow, for example, hits:

Same guy at the top, and as I recall he went on to a decent career, but I'd have to look into it further. In 23 fewer plate appearances, Puig has only four fewer hits than Joe DiMaggio. I'm no expert, but I don't recall any fuss over Austin Jackson excellent start. I certainly remember Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, but that was a happy coincidence of the production matching the hype. And by the way, Suzuki in the Hall of Fame--yes, absolutely. Here are doubles:

DiMaggio is now 3-for-3 in leading these categories, which should already have your full attention. I remember Carlos Gonzalez getting ink for his start, but Jorge Cantu? Eric Hinske? Home runs next:

Look at Boomer George Scott at the top of that list--he went on to have a very solid rookie season but was a cypher in the Rookie of the Year voting, which was won by White Sox Tommie Agee. Scott finished 3rd and received exactly one vote, the same number as another player--current Nationals manager Davey Johnson of the Orioles. RBI next:

There's Scott again, Albert Pujols, who burst onto the scene like a hurricane, DiMaggio again and DiMaggio's ultimate replacement Mickey Mantle. This is a fairly solid list of players top to the bottom. Batting average is next:

This is the number I've been drooling over since Puig's debut since I keep waiting for it to return to realistic levels, and it just hasn't yet. The amazing aspect of this list is that there's nobody that really makes you say "Pretty good!"--nothing wrong with Riggs Stephenson, even though none of us ever saw him play, but Bill Mueller? Jeff Francoeur was just released by Kansas City and he's the best fielding outfielder in baseball--look what that got him. This last table combines average and power using OPS:

Now we get some players on the list--Scott, Willie McCovey, Pujols, even Alvin Davis were all very good players, which places Puig in decent company. So where does that leave us? I put it all together with a ranking formula:
.1(rPA) + .25(rH) + .1(r2B) +.1(rHR) + .1(rRBI) + .1(rBA) + .25(rOPS)
The "r" stands for the rank of the category, meaning the lower the number the better. Here's how Puig compares using this formula:

To explain, this means that DiMaggio ranked #1 in plate appearances, hits and doubles, #138 in home runs, etc. What I was looking for was good all-around batting performance and not stressing the two factors I know I had been, Puig's batting average and OPS. We see a couple of players that didn't make the top 10 in any list sneak in with Josh Rutledge and Ryan Braun, and when it's all said and done, I have a difficult time saying that the person who ranks #12 of out 2,222 isn't special.

I don't want to diminish what Puig has done in any way, but it's pretty obvious that Joe DiMaggio had the best start to a career in his first 26 games, and looking at the whole body of work helps show how good Albert Pujols was right from the start. All I tried to accomplish is provide a fuller body of work with which to view Puig's start. I've mentioned nothing regarding his fielding or base running, but he's clearly above average in both regards. Having written all this, I'm convinced that the NL Rookie of the Year is his to lose at this point.

I'll finish with a question I suspect many have--where's Mike Trout? I'll show all the rookies from 2011-12, but Trout was a rookie in 2011--his 135 plate appearances that year cost him Rookie of the Year eligibility for 2012 by 5 plate appearances, so he had to make due with being the MVP runner-up:

No comments :

Post a Comment