The Los Angeles Dodgers made a lot of very expensive moves last offseason after a tumultuous change in ownership to ring up the second highest payroll in baseball. Among the assets designated to give the fans the wins they deserve, though, Matt Kemp and Zach Greinke have come up short, and until the last two weeks it did not appear the then-last place Dodgers had a chance in the NL West.
Kemp has a mere four home runs and 24 RBIs on the season, while Grienke’s 6-2 record rests on only 12 quality starts. As of June 2, the Dodgers were 11 games below .500 and 8.5 games out of first place. It was going to take more than money to be competitive in the National League West.
What it has taken is a six-foot three-inch, 245-pound, 22-year-old Cuban surprise by the name of Yasiel Puig. In just one month, after only 30 games, Puig is not only the talk of LA, but of Baseball Nation.
He is athletic, strong, aggressive and, most importantly for the MLB, fun to watch. And surely the Dodgers haven’t missed the statistical comparison with Kemp. In half the body of work, Puig has more home runs (8), a better batting average (.420) and on-base percentage (.449), and trails Kemp in RBIs by a mere pittance (5).
The ultimate measure of a player’s worth, Wins Above Replacement (WAR), indicates that his hitting is already worth about 2.1 extra wins for the Dodgers through 30 games – on pace for an additional 10.5 wins if he played 150 games. Despite the impressive numbers some players don’t want Puig on the All-Star team due to just playing 30 games. Phillies pitcher Jonathan Papelbon told the MLB Radio Network, “To me, it’s an absolute joke. It’s really kind of stupid if you ask me.”
Puig is bringing younger fans back to the game and has the news media focused on about baseball for good reasons, rather than negative news such as A-Rod and his general manager’s negative exchanges over the airwaves, and lingering steroids concerns.
Derek Jeter–or “The Captain”–has been the bastion of character in baseball for years, but with the ankle injury and his career winding down, MLB needs Puig to be more than an All-Star in 2013. The league needs him to be perennial one with a clean record.