The Cost of Attitude: Mike Trout vs. Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig Fantasy Baseball
(Source: Getty Images)

Boy is it a good time to be a baseball fan in Los Angeles. Not only do they have a winning team, but they also have one of the game’s best outfielders who’s likely to be an MVP candidate this year. He’s played impeccable defense thus far in 2014, and is among the league leaders in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. In addition to that, he also ranks in the top 10 in RBI’s and top 15 in home runs. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers right fielder. Since Puig burst onto the scene last season, he’s been one of the games best players, and compares well to that other LA outfielder named Mike Trout.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @TheOriginalBull, and hit the jump to see just how great Puig has been, and just how great he can be.

On May 23rd, MLB Network ran a segment that compared Mike Trout to Yasiel Puig through their first 146 games played. Unfortunately for the viewers, MLB Network only had so much time to cover a very limited variety of statistics, but luckily for you, I have an unimaginable amount of free time at the moment and can dive a little deeper. Let’s start by taking a quick look at some of the more basic baseball stats.

Mike Trout 146 555 121 90 .314 .377 .546 30 28 6 53 130
Yasiel Puig 146 545 91 79 .323 .401 .556 29 32 4 57 135

Apart from runs scored, it appears that through the first 146 games of their careers, Puig and Trout were remarkably similar. For any huge Yasiel Puig fans out there, I’m sure you’re thinking one thing right now, Dodger Stadium. For those that aren’t sure what I’m referring to, here it is. According to ESPN’s park factors, Dodger Stadium is the 15th hardest park to hit in, while Angel Stadium is 6th. The question then becomes, what would the Puig vs. Trout argument look like if they played in the same park? Luckily for us, Baseball Reference has one of the coolest tools available and we can see what a certain player’s statistics would be if all park factors were removed; or in other words, we neutralize their batting. The one drawback is that it’s impossible to only neutralize Trout’s first 146 games, so I have instead used the tool to neutralize their respective statistics and adjusted Puig’s numbers to be consistent with 179 total games played (Trout’s total through his first two seasons).

Mike Trout 179 698 168 111 .322 .396 .557 37 35 9 82 169
Yasiel Puig 179 688 126 110 .342 .421 .590 39 43 5 76 166

Just as before, Puig and Trout are very similar. I would still give the edge to Trout because of the disparity in runs, but nonetheless, these tables show just how great Puig has been since he broke into the majors. I could stop the argument here and wrap up my point very nicely, but why do that when there are so many more statistics to look at? Listed below are career numbers for other various categories. If you’re unsure about what any of the abbreviations stand for, I’ve hyperlinked each category heading to an article that explains everything you’d want to know.

BAbip LD% GB% FB% HR% SO% BB% OPS+
Mike Trout .364 22.1 42.4 35.7 4.1 21.3 12.5 164
Yasiel Puig .383 17.9 49.8 32.4 4.7 21.7 9.2 169

Once again the numbers are remarkably similar. While Trout has the superior line drive rate, Puig has the advantage in home run percentage, and career OPS+. My last piece of Puig information comes from @msimonespn, who tweeted this image earlier in the week.

Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 11.49.21 AM

When Puig was first called up, you can see that he chased about 38% of pitches out of the zone. However in less than a year, he’s been able to cut that figure down to below 25%, and is still trending downward. With Puig becoming more cognizant of what he can and cannot hit, he’ll undoubtedly start seeing more pitches in the zone, and as a result have better pitches to drive during his at-bats.

I’m sure you’re wondering where the fantasy implication is in all of this so I’ll wrap it up. There’s one main idea that I’d want any fantasy player reading this to takeaway. Don’t let public perception of Puig, or any player for that matter, distort their value. In a world where numbers, statistics, and facts are at our fingertips almost 24/7, you need to make sure you use them to your advantage. While the 2014 regular season began 42 games ago, Mike Trout’s average draft position was 1st overall, while Puig’s was 25th. From all the statistics I’ve seen and presented here in this article, it doesn’t seem that there should be 24 spots separating the two outfielders. What this all comes down to is perception. Puig’s style of play has upset quite a few baseball players, and annoyed fans throughout the country (myself included in some cases). Trout on the other hand has been presented as a quiet kid from New Jersey who plays the game the right way. While attitude is no doubt an important factor in the game of baseball, the fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t play a role in the fantasy world. Yasiel Puig has shown that he’s a fantastic player, but because he rubs some people the wrong way, his overall package doesn’t look as shiny as Trout’s.

So for all you Puig owners out there, make sure you understand just how valuable he truly is. While Trout is the better player of the two, Puig is not as far behind him as the general public may think.