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Yankees at Dodgers: Dealing with Yasiel Puig

Hopefully the second time's the charm for the Yankees and their veteran hurlers.

Yasiel Puig pretends he's an airplane.
Yasiel Puig pretends he's an airplane.
Stephen Dunn

It's bad enough that the Yankees and their paltry offense get to deal with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on back-to-back nights (10 PM EST, nights mind you), but they also get their second look at the bat-flipping, single-stretching, cannon-armed whirling tornado of talent known as Yasiel Puig (although Hanley Ramirez and his 211 wRC+ should certainly not be discounted). Their first dealings with the Cuban star were back during the June 19th doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, when he went 4-9 with a home run in the twin bill. Puig has certainly made quite the impression on, not just the Yankees, but the entire league, as the 22-year-old already has gone on to generate more fWAR in a mere 48 games than any Yankee not named Robinson Cano and even nearly earn an All-Star birth. Since that time, the Dodgers' fortunes have certainly changed for the better, in no small part thanks to their exuberant young import.

After a slow spell following a torrid start to his career, Puig is back to mashing over his last week of games to the tune of a 1.143 OPS, including a dramatic walkoff home run on Sunday. Even with his mini-slump, Puig is still hitting to the effect of a .372/.417/.590, so the question is: how do Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda prevent Puig from mashing baseballs all over Dodger Stadium?

You're never going to believe it, but the best way to deal with a 22-year-old superstar two months removed from the minors is by not throwing him fastballs and getting him to chase pitches. Crazy, right? For as impressive as his start has been, Puig has been prone to the strikeout (24.5 K%) and shown limited patience (5.4 BB%). Of course, those are things you expect a 22-year-old to improve with experience, but hopefully Yankees' pitchers can take advantage of Puig's itchy trigger finger early on in his career.

Concerning pitch type, Puig has also been worth 2.79 runs above average against fastballs/per 100 pitches this season, which is fourth in all of the majors among batters with at least 200 plate appearances (you probably don't want to throw him a slider, either). Lucky for Hiroki Kuroda, Puig's been worst against split-finger fastballs, which is Kuroda's bread and butter offering. Not really sure what Andy Pettitte's going to do, though, but if he continues to pitch the way he has in recent games it will probably not matter that much.

Obviously, it's way too early to read much of anything into the numbers Puig has put up this far in his short career, especially regarding forecasting his successes and failures to come in the future. But as an opponent (or a rival fan) you try to follow whatever trends and patterns you can get your hands on. So lay off the fastballs and try to make him chase your pitch in your spot. And while I'm usually as staunch an opponent as anybody of being free and easy about handing out walks, when a player is going this well it may not be the worst thing in the world to do. Just remember that Ramirez isn't far behind.

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