The outside stuff on Yasiel Puig
By Cary Osborne
The other day, I looked at zone profiles for Justin Turner and discussed just how much he has improved with inside pitches. I thought the next case study should be the always intriguing Yasiel Puig.
The thing I see is pitchers have a specific spot where they like to cast their bait to catch Puig. In the past, they’ve caught him often. If he can resist the temptation enough, he’s got pitchers where he wants them.
We can generally notice that Puig tends to have a hard time with pitches on the outside half of the plate and outside off the plate. Numbers from Brooks Baseball really back that up.
Here’s Puig’s career zone profile with batting average:
Here are Puig’s results with inside pitches (the 10 squares that run down the left side of the zone profile) compared to outside pitches (the 10 on the right side) using batting average/slugging:
- 2013: .380/.509
- 2014: .286/.484
- 2015: .270/.415
- 2013: .258/.438
- 2014: .244/.369
- 2015: .205/.384
Now obviously there’s a big drop from 2015 to 2013 on inside pitches, but he’s never had strong numbers on outside pitches. Pitchers specifically try and get Puig low and outside.
There are 25 squares on the zone profile. The bottom away square is Puig’s kryptonite. In his career, he is 3 for 70 there. Puig is a .294 career hitter. If you remove all 70 of those at-bats, he is a career .309 hitter.
In the four lowest outside squares, he is a career .212 hitter (65 for 306). Take all those at-bats away and he’s a .321 hitter in the other 21 squares.
And it’s interesting to see how often pitchers attack those four squares. The following are percentages of all pitches thrown to Puig in that area (with how often they throw there with two strikes on him in parenthesis):
- 2013: 22.57 percent (28.78)
- 2014: 27.54 percent (32.06)
- 2015: 24.65 percent (24.78)
And with two strikes, odds are they’re going to throw an offspeed or breaking pitch to those squares. Here are the percentage of those pitches thrown with two strikes to that area:
- 2013: 51.86
- 2014: 48.78
- 2015: 38.76
One thing hasn’t changed about Puig since 2013. Throw him a strike, he’s going to beat you. Here are his batting average/slugging percentage in the nine boxes that make up the strike zone:
- 2013: .400/.680
- 2014: .351/.603
- 2015: .308/.584
You might be thinking, “Of course he’s going to hit balls in the strike zone well.” OK, here’s a comparison. Puig is a career .356 hitter on balls in the strike zone. According to numbers from Brooks Baseball, Mike Trout is a .344 hitter from 2013 to 2015.
It will be interesting to see what Puig’s patience and plate discipline is like this season, especially with the low outside pitch. We’ll see if he forces pitchers back in and over the plate. Last year’s numbers are a little deceptive because he was hurt and out of rhythm for most of the season, and that’s not making excuses for him. For any job, disruptions can break focus and execution. But we have at least 2 1/2 years of history here and know what he’s capable of. If he refuses the bait, this could be a huge season for him.