Posted June 20, 2013

Yasiel Puig belongs on NL All-Star team, no matter what Bruce Bochy says

All-Star Game, Los Angeles Dodgers, Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers

Ysiel Puig has thrilled fans with his skills at the plate, in the field and on the bases. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Yasiel Puig has taken Major League Baseball by storm since being called up to the majors on June 3. In that time, the 22-year-old Cuban defector has hit an absurd .474/.500/.789, and whether it’s been with his hitting, his baserunning, his defense or his brawling, he has proven to be a one-man advent calendar of highlights. As I can now testify based upon witnessing him firsthand, even his outs are memorable. Based upon the torrid start to his major league career, one can make a reasonable case that he belongs on the National League All-Star team when it convenes at Citi Field in New York next month.

But will he be? Giants manager Bruce Bochy — who will pilot the NL team — addressed that on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio earlier this week. Via the Los Angeles Daily News‘ J.P. Hoornstra, here’s his response:

“I’ve got to be honest here, that would be really hard for me to consider that… I guess there was somebody who wrote they would like to see him there and that he deserves to go because this game is for the fans and they want to see not just the best players, but the most interesting or intriguing players. I would have a hard time picking somebody who has been here three weeks, to be honest. The numbers would have to be so stupid that you say, ‘Ok I’ll consider it.’ But, you know, I couldn’t take away from a player who has been here and done it the whole half and been out there grinding every day and he doesn’t go. I couldn’t look at that player. I couldn’t look at myself, to be honest. So that’s why I’m saying, that’s a really long shot.”

In Puig’s defense, the numbers are stupid. Since 1916 (when Retrosheet game-by-game data coverage begins), just two players have collected more total bases in their first 15 games than Puig, and only one has collected more hits:

Rk  Player  Year  Team HR  TB
1 Mandy Brooks 1925 Cubs 25 6 51
2 Willie McCovey 1959 Giants 22 6 46
3T Yasiel Puig 2013 Dodgers 27 5 45
Dino Restelli 1949 Pirates 21 7 45
5T Mark Reynolds 2007 Diamondbacks 23 4 44
Joe DiMaggio 1936 Yankees 27 2 44
7 Alvin Davis 1984 Mariners 20 6 43
8T Chris Dickerson 2008 Reds 20 4 41
Del Bissonette 1928 Dodgers 20 4 41
10T Coco Laboy 1969 Expos 25 2 40
Ken Keltner 1938 Indians 22 4 40
Daric Barton 2007 A’s 22 3 40
Bo Hart 2003 Cardinals 28 1 40
14T Roy Weatherly 1936 Indians 24 1 39
Chuck Klein 1928 Phillies 22 3 39
Matt Kemp 2006 Dodgers 17 7 39
Mike Lansing 1993 Expos 24 3 39

Fifteen games is a small sample size and not a great barometer of career success. Some of the players above turned into stars, Hall of Famers even; McCovey, DiMaggio and Klein found their way to Cooperstown, and Keltner had a reasonable enough case to have a whole line of sabermetric inquiry named after him (Bill James’ Keltner Test). Others cooled off and quickly faded into obscurity; Brooks, Ristelli and Hart put up acceptable numbers as rookies but were done in the majors after a handful of games in their second seasons.

As noted before, Puig has done more than just post fantastic numbers. Whether his talent is truly All-Star caliber remains to be seen, but given the number of players who make it each year who are demonstrably not — take 2012 NL All-Star Bryan LaHair, who lost his job later in the year and left for Japan this winter, or Dan Uggla, who has fallen apart as a hitter in recent years and was hitting .221/.351/.395 at last year’s All-Star break — that shouldn’t be a major impediment.

Having been called up so late, Puig isn’t on the ballot, but as Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan pointed out, when luminaries like Mike Baxter (now in Triple-A), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (with a 451 OPS) and Adam Eaton (who has yet to play this year due to injury) are, that doesn’t speak particularly well of the process. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Dodgers mount a write-in campaign before balloting ends on July 4, or if fans around the majors start writing him in on their own. They want to see him, and assuming Bochy bypasses him on principle when he chooses the reserves, it would still be no shock at all if he’s part of the internet-based All-Star Final Vote procedure, which allows fans to choose from a five-player slate in each league.

Quite frankly, baseball needs Puig at Citi Field on July 16 given that last year’s game sank to record-low television ratings. The NL — Bochy’s team included — needs him as well given that he may be able to help them win and therefore secure home field advantage in the World Series for the league’s pennant-winner. He doesn’t have to start, nor does he deserve to, but imagine him as a late-inning pinch-hitting threat if nothing else, because one swing of his bat can change a game. Dude is hitting .474/.500/.789!

The Dodgers are 10 games under .500, but they nevertheless have several candidates to represent them in Queens. Clayton Kershaw is an easy pick even if he doesn’t actually pitch, and both Adrian Gonzalez (.309/.367/.469) and Carl Crawford (.301/.358/.470) are defensible choices based upon track records and current performance — health permitting, given that the latter is on the DL due to the hamstring strain that led to Puig’s recall in the first place.

According to MLB.com, 99 rookies have played in an All-Star Game, including 59 position players. There is however no precedent for a position player making the All-Star Game with as little major league experience as Puig, who if he were to play every remaining Dodger game between now and July 14 would max out at 39 games. Bryce Harper became the youngest player in All-Star history last year at 19, but after being recalled in late April, he had 63 games under his belt by the time the game rolled around; he was only added to the team as an injury replacement, and was hitting .282/.354/.472 with eight homers at the break.

Pitchers have been selected with less experience. A’s rookie closer Ryan Cook had pitched in 50 career games, thrown 46 innings and picked up eight saves when he was tabbed last summer. Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela had 24 games and 14 starts when he was chosen to start for the NL in the 1981 game following the settlement of the players’ strike. On the other hand, Stephen Strasburg was bypassed in 2010 after making seven starts with a 2.32 ERA and a 12.9 strikeout per nine ratio — roughly a quarter of a season of work, about what Puig would have by the time this year’s game rolled around. As Bochy can certainly recall, even without Strasburg’s help, the NL won that one and then his own Giants team used the home-field advantage as a springboard to a world championship.

From here, despite his rawness and his limited experience, Puig appears to be at least a defensible choice, particularly as the All-Star Game scrambles to straddle its dual roles of being an exhibition for the people and a competitive means of deciding home-field advantage. That said, the odds are against him maintaining even a .400 average by the time the squads are announced on July 6, or on July 7, when Final Vote balloting begins, which should give Bochy cover as he protects The Old Guard from an upstart who could help the exhibition regain some of the popularity it has lost.

Assuming that happens, it will be a shame, a missed opportunity if not an injustice. Like most other players who don’t happen to be lucky enough to be the sole defensible choice on a bad team, Puig will have to grind his way to the Midsummer Classic like everyone else. Bo-ring.

This article has been updated to correct the date when All-Star teams will be announced.

40 comments
Abe Paul
Abe Paul

He has been in MLB for all of ONE month - how does that deserve ANYTHING?

skeets2086
skeets2086

how about the fact this guy is a prime example at 22 years old of being on the juice

Michael10
Michael10

SSRC (Sample Size Reality Check), June 22: Despite drawing only his second and third walks of the season, Puig's  OBP still dipped 5 points while his BA and SLG fell 20 and 34 points, respectively. Puig did manage to increase his strikeout rate, though, whiffing twice in three ABs -- both times to end innings with runners on base (including a bases loaded situation in the fifth).

Please file all ifs, ands, or buts in the box below...

mewhee
mewhee

Is there any evidence that adding Puig will help boost sinking TV ratings?  Fans tuned out long ago when the game  become a joke from so many undeserving players on the squads among other things. I fail to see how adding a player with 14 games under his belt thus far will make the game less of a joke, More reason for many to not take the game seriously and continue to avoid it.

finrodfelegund
finrodfelegund

If you want a rookie sensation with limited experience and a great story, Evan Gattis (if he's off the DL by then) would be a better pick. He's also demonstrated that he's a terrific pinch hitter, something Puig has yet to do

BobKurtz
BobKurtz

I actually saw Dino Restilli play and he got 21 hits in his first 15 games and almost none (65 total) after that. He had a longer career in the PCL where I saw him with the San Francisco Seals. Time to wait and see on Puig. Bochy is right in holding off for now...

oasis1994
oasis1994

I can't read Si anymore or watch MLB network, These "baseball" people are complete morons. There are plenty of guys that have been playing all season that deserve to be all stars over this guy.  How do these guys get jobs? 

ChrisBaker
ChrisBaker

Yasiel Puig is the most exciting player in the game of baseball today I don't care if he has been around for only 20 starts I don't need to watch him for a long time to tell that he is an all star.  Andrew Luck had less than 20 starts and you could tell that he was an all-star why does Puig need more than that?

pmk1790
pmk1790

.412 .444 .706 ----- Look at these numbers for Ciriaco over the last 17 AB's... Allstar? HOF? He has had a hot start the past two weeks! 

morphy
morphy

what a LOAD of bs about a NEW player. so he has a few HR's. Let's see a full season BEFORE he is voted into the HOF. Writers like this make me pue. Big cities like LA, NY, Chicago get a new player and BOOM news 24/7.

JimAntonicello
JimAntonicello

This writer is a clown! How do you anoint a player to the all-star game based on 15 games? Let's see how he performs over a 3 month stretch!

Michael10
Michael10

SSRC (Sample Size Reality Check), June 21: Despite a HR in last night's 6-3 loss to San Diego, Puig's  BA and OBP dropped 22 and 23 points, respectively, while his SLG ticked up a single point. Puig also recorded 3 of the Dodgers' 6 strikeouts, including one to end the game with two men on base. He's currently striking out at the rate of once every four ABs (compared to drawing one walk in 65 PAs).

Please file all ifs, ands, or buts in the box below...

matt37
matt37

I don't care about previous All Star choices-multiple wrongs don't make a right.  Clowns like this writer are half the reason the All Star game is such a joke.

wisdomofsoloman
wisdomofsoloman

Gerardo Parra is your answer as to why Puig doesn't belong in the All-Star game.

Michael10
Michael10

C'mon Jay, the Valenzuela angle is more than a stretch. Valenzuela led the league in 1981 in starts, innings, strikeouts, complete games, shutouts (including 5 in those first 14 starts) and Win Percentage Added and was second in wins, WHIP and WAR (by 0.1 to Steve Carlton). He also managed to pick up not only the ROY, but also the NL Cy Young (only one ever in a rookie season) and TSN Pitcher of the Year as well as the ML Player of the Year -- and was a Silver Slugger to boot. He also finished 5th in the MVP voting. He was also named to the next five All-Star squads, an incredible feat for a pitcher. 

Puig's had a good two weeks, but...c'mon.

RickTorres
RickTorres

He's only going to make it if they put him in the final fan vote. Personally I don't see why they are making it out as if a spot on the All-Star team is so sacred that it cannot be spoiled by giving one to a flash in the pan. The long history of the All-Star game is filled with dubious All-Star selections, from star players long past their prime coasting on name recognition, to guys merely having a good half for once in their careers, regardless if they are upstarts or veterans. In a world where All-Star spots have been given to Biff Pocaroba, Ken Reitz, and the immortal Bryan Lahair, I don't see what the big deal is if they name Puig to the All-Star team. Even if he ultimately ends up being the next Joe Charboneau instead of the next Joe DiMaggio.

The_Sports_Dude
The_Sports_Dude

I hope he doesn't go to the ASG.  He's raking now just having fun, but I'd like to see how he plays with a chip on his shoulder. 

tennishog
tennishog

15 games?  That versus 1/2 a season?  I don't think so...sure, his numbers are impressive, but let's see how he does after about 4x that many games.  15 games in my mind doesn't justify selection; I agree with Bruce Bochy.  Can't believe you're even proposing this.

Michael10
Michael10

Why should a special place be set at the table for Puig when the best defensive player in the game is leading the majors in hitting this season -- with a .452/.490/.677 slash over the last month alone that should put Puig's streak into perspective -- and isn't even leading the fan voting at his own position? Are these the sort of fans that want to see a deserving player snubbed in favor of the "flavor of the week"? 

Oh, wait...maybe they are.

Still it's disheartening to see sportswriters, who are supposed to have more knowledge of and respect for the game than the average headline-skimming fan, jumping on the bandwagon, too -- writing "phenom" fluff pieces rather than promoting truly deserving players who happen to play outside the media bubble.

And I thought Cliff Corcoran's man-crush on Mike Trout was embarrassing...

SDRHYTHM
SDRHYTHM

This article is such a crock of sh1t. He's played for two weeks! Hot start, but evaluate anyone who's had a hot streak this year and their numbers will be similar. Gotta love the big market biased reporting from SI tho. Garbage.

ChrisBaker
ChrisBaker

Puig is an all star if I have ever seen one.

McGibblets
McGibblets

No.  But, he should be drug tested.

Jarred
Jarred

its 15 games calm the hell down

rjb
rjb

Once Puig has had enough hits that he would be hitting over .300 if he had the number of at-bats needed to qualify for the batting, I will think that he deserves to be an all-star. Until then...

djfarkus
djfarkus

Your list of players with comparable starts to their career is not exactly a murderer's row of Hall-of-Famers. Yeah, there are a few, but your list seems to clearly make the point that hot starts do not make an All-Star.

Puig has had a torrid start, but the truth is that if he weren't playing for one of the largest markets in America, for a team that has virtually nothing to be excited about besides Puig, then America would've been lucky to read a single column about him. Put this guy and his stats on a team like Pittsburgh and we aren't even having this All-Star discussion.

PAZSKY
PAZSKY

Jay Jaffe..moron. You have written some pretty dumb articles lately, including this one...

Abe Paul
Abe Paul

@ChrisBaker  When Puig has rhose stats for well over a season, like Andrew Luck, THEN we can consider voting for him, not based on one-eighth of a season!

Michael10
Michael10

@ChrisBaker Because 20 starts in the NFL is the equivalent of 200 in MLB -- almost a season and a half.

pmk1790
pmk1790

@ChrisBaker You can tell he has the potential for future all Star games yes.. But he doesn't deserve to be one this time around. 

ChrisBaker
ChrisBaker

@morphy I'm not saying that he should be voted into the hall of fame just yet for that you need long gevity.  I do believe that he is an all-star player this year, to be an all star you just have to prove that you are a really good player this year.

Michael10
Michael10

@wisdomofsoloman There are about a dozen NL outfielders that deserve to go before Puig, but the roster should max out at 6-8...

Michael10
Michael10

@RickTorres

A history of dubious selections -- so why not make another? Once the rosters have been announced, you can scour them for a Lahair, Pocaroba or Reitz. Even if you find such an anomaly this year, there will be a dozen snubs of more deserving players than Puig. 

By the way, Reitz was hitting .373 two months into the season he was selected as an All-Star. My guess is Puig's average will have dropped considerably by the time the game gets here, too. If he's still flirting with .500 in July, maybe Barrack Obama can make an executive decision and force Bochy to take him. Until then, he can get in the way everyone else has to...

GeraldRosenstingel1
GeraldRosenstingel1

@ChrisBaker Really? How many games has he played so far? 15? Don't get me wrong. I like this kid and it's fun watching him. He could be an all-star for years to come, but not this season. It might have a positive impact on the NL squad to have such an enthusiastic player on the team, but there are others that have performed very well since the start of the season and therefore should be selected before him.

rjb
rjb

His average would be .124 in the interests of qualifying for the batting title.

RickTorres
RickTorres

@Michael10 @RickTorres "A history of dubious selections - so why not make another?"

My point exactly. Beautifully illustrated. 

Barack Obama hardly needs to invoke Presidential privilege to get Puig on the All-Star team, and Bochy can do what other All-Star managers have done over the years and load the team with dubious picks from his own roster. Puig will almost certainly get in via regular means by winning the fans Final Vote. Unless of course the MLB PR Dept has a brain cramp and leaves Puig off the ballot. I would say that sounds ridiculous, but this is MLB we're talking about. They've never known a bandwagon that they didn't jump on until it was late in the game. But I think this one is pretty obvious even for them. So expect Puig to suit up for the senior circuit at Citi Field in July.

Michael10
Michael10

@RickTorres @Michael10 Bochy will select the five candidates for the Final Vote, so Puig won't be on that ballot unless he's still hitting .400 or the commissioner's office strongarms Bochy into it -- they've certainly been known to put ratings over baseball before.

If Puig does make the cut, though, he'll surely win the text vote on the West Coast tween numbers alone. My bet is he punches a locker before then and ends up on the DL...