Being expressive is half of Yasiel Puig’s whole thing. The Dodgers would love for him to be great, and the fans would love for him to be great, but if Yasiel Puig were great, he’d be just another great baseball player. That is, if he were great and great only. But there’s more to him, for better and for worse. Puig’s own expressiveness might be linked to personality traits that make him, shall we say, draining company, but fans don’t have to be around Puig for hours on end, every day of the week. They just get to watch him entertain. Puig is a highly-skilled professional entertainer.
He goes about his business with uncommon flair, eschewing baseball’s standard and pervasive stoic self-seriousness. It’s not that Puig is in any way lacking for intensity; it just has a different way of bubbling to the surface. Over these past few weeks, we’ve grown acquainted with Yasiel Puig’s tongue. Sometimes it’s hanging out of his mouth, and sometimes it’s licking the end of the barrel. Puig is also notorious for his bat flips, regardless of whether the ball’s leaving the yard. Puig has his own style of playing defense. He has his own style of running the bases. You know, in short, when it’s Puig that you’re watching even if you can’t see the name on his jersey.
Puig has even brought his own flavor to patience. You might not think there’s such a thing as taking a pitch in a particularly expressive way. Puig would disagree with you, and there’s a mountain of evidence from just these playoffs alone. Puig has shown some demonstrative takes for years, but this month, he’s reached a new level, as he’s been more patient than ever. Puig has one of the lower swing rates in the playoffs. He has one of the higher rates of pitches per plate appearance in the playoffs. Though he went 0-for-3 last night, he worked two counts to 2-and-0, and the other to 3-and-0. Puig has swung at the first pitch just three times in his last 54 opportunities since re-joining the Dodgers lineup in late September. One of those was a check-swing foul where the bat met the ball by accident.
This might be a bit of a slog. You’re welcome to leave at any time. But, I watched every pitch that Puig has seen this year in the playoffs. I’ve identified 16 different forms of demonstrative takes. This ignores the regular, boring, featureless take. There have been some of those. There have been many of the others. Watch as Yasiel Puig makes a show of doing nothing.
Adrian Beltre was the first player I ever saw do this. I never did find a great explanation, but the way I figure, Beltre always wants to be swinging. When he can’t swing, his energy has to find another outlet. It goes straight to the legs.
Happy feet, straightened up
You might be tempted to suggest that Puig is just naturally fidgety. Always has to be doing something. On the other hand-
Taking all the way
As Dallas Keuchel is about to deliver, Puig stands straight up, telegraphing his intent, or the lack thereof. Perhaps, in this way, Puig cuts himself off from any temptation to hack. Can’t hack well when you’re standing flat-footed.
There’s a subtle difference between this take and the previous one. In the previous one, Puig went to the trouble of standing up. Here, he just stands perfectly still, not moving a muscle. If you don’t move one muscle, you can’t move the dozens or hundreds of them that might be required in order to attempt a regular swing.
Take of regret
Puig has mostly been pleased by his patience. He’s turned it into a productive few weeks. But that doesn’t mean that every decision’s been perfect. Some pitches simply aren’t meant to be taken.
Look out! Baseball is terrifying!
You think this is weird? It gets weirder.
You think this is weird? It gets weirder.
Pre-pitch kick and post-pitch kick
Only Carl Edwards Jr. has seen the pre-pitch kick, and he saw it on consecutive deliveries. It wasn’t anything like a normal leg-kick, but maybe that was the whole point. Maybe it was just about trying to be distracting. We all remember how Yu Darvish was successful. And if you’re going to kick with one leg, might as well kick with the other, I suppose. It’s important to be symmetrical.
It reads as if Puig took the pitch, and was angry at the pitcher for throwing it. It was a regular pitch.
Cameo appearance, also, by happy feet. Puig has most often gone to the happy feet with his postseason takes. The twist this time is that Puig did the foot shuffle while his knees were deeply bent. Not an easy move. Do not actually try it at home, because you’re going to hurt yourself reading a baseball blog, and how would you explain that to people?
Knee dip and angry take
You get some of the dip, and you get some of the anger. Puig throws his bat away emphatically, as if he never wanted to have to use it at all. What fun is holding a bat when you can get to first base just by looking at stuff?
I don’t know
I don’t know
Self-satisfied shoulder dance
It’s been a long time since I played video-game baseball, but one thing I distinctly remember is how satisfying it felt to be able to draw an actual walk. Real-life baseball is even harder than that! Laying off the right pitches is hard. You should be happy with yourself when you do it. Life is nothing without the occasional pat on the back.
Exploding starfish and backward hop
I only wish this were preceded by a full knee dip. That would’ve been something. People would’ve been doing it in the streets.
The pitch did not miss the strike zone by much. In a 3-and-0 count, that’s sometimes called a strike. Nevertheless, Puig was on the way to first before the ball ever made it to the catcher. Some umpires don’t like for calls to be assumed before they’re issued. Puig, though, trotted with the confidence of a dozen men. He knows a walk when he sees one, and these days he’s trying harder to see them.
Anybody can flip a bat. Anybody can stick their tongue out. Anybody can celebrate, when they’ve done something amazing. Players have their own idiosyncrasies, their own flavors, and these can often be detected in the game’s bigger moments. Less often are they detected in the game’s smaller moments. It doesn’t get much smaller than a batter standing in the box, not attempting a swing. Yet all of these takes are undeniably Puig. His is a style that permeates every last facet of the job that he has.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.