Yasiel Puig’s on a High-Fastball Diet

Imagine the average Yasiel Puig plate appearance. What does it look like to you? One thing it might look like is Puig flailing at a bunch of low-away sliders. Now, I don’t actually know what’s in your head. I don’t know how you think about Puig. But just in case you think he is extremely vulnerable to breaking stuff, do I have news for you!

I have prepared two plots, showing the entirety of Puig’s major-league career. Here is a rolling-average plot of Puig’s rate of fastballs seen:

Great! He’s gone through some low-fastball phases before. Now he’s higher than ever. I should tell you that, for context, baseball-wide fastball rates are going *down*. So, the average hitter is seeing fewer fastballs than ever before. Puig is seeing more fastballs than ever before. All right, that’s part of it. Time to fold in run values. Here’s the same idea, where I’ve just summed up Puig’s fastball run values above or below average over rolling 30-game stretches.

It shouldn’t surprise you to see how cyclical things are. Underneath, that’s how baseball tends to work — something gets the job done until it doesn’t, at which point adjustments are made, and then more adjustments are made, and on and on. Puig has gone through troughs, followed by peaks, but Puig has been at another low. How low? So far, there are 208 hitters this season who have batted at least 100 times. Puig owns baseball’s highest fastball rate, at 68%. Last year, he was at 60%. And while this has been going on, Puig is sitting on baseball’s third-worst fastball run value, at -8.9 runs. Only Dansby Swanson and Alcides Escobar have been worse. Pitch-type run values, of course, are prone to noise in either direction, but both these factors are fairly convincing together. Puig’s seeing more fastballs because he’s doing less to them.

Here are Puig’s fastball run values by season, expressed as runs above or below average per 100 fastballs:

  • 2013: +1.7 runs per 100 fastballs
  • 2014: +1.4
  • 2015: +1.0
  • 2016: -0.5
  • 2017: -2.4

So far this season, Puig has been pretty good against both sliders and changeups. It’s almost as if he’s focused too hard on addressing a weakness, such that now he’s just behind faster pitches. It’s something to work on, and with Puig, it’s just another adjustment to attempt. There’s always something, but I guess you could say that’s true for anybody.

It could be misstating things to assert that Puig’s on a high-fastball diet. Pitchers, certainly, are giving him a steady diet of fastballs. Yet relatively few of them are being consumed. So, the headline could probably stand to be fixed. Give me a few seconds to get on that.

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.

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5 years ago

Well, you know what they say…carbs–and fastballs–are the enemy.