Thursday, May 15, 2014
Stock Watch: Yasiel Puig gallops along
By Mark Saxon
Yasiel Puig, RF: They used to call him the Wild Horse. Lately, he has just been a horse, pulling the Los Angeles Dodgers' offense behind him many nights. Puig has cut down on the wild base running and off-target throws, but he still plays with more vigor than just about any player alive. He has also remade himself as a hitter, willingly taking walks and waiting for pitches to hit. That has made it harder for pitchers to use his aggressiveness against him. During this career-high 14-game hitting streak, he has batted .411 with nine runs scored, four home runs and 17 RBIs.
Josh Beckett, RHP: Maybe you thought he would have a bounce-back season, but nobody -- probably not even Beckett -- thought it would be this good through the first seven weeks. Beckett, coming off major surgery in the offseason, leads Dodgers' starters in WHIP and hits per nine innings. He has devised a new style, relying heavily on his curveball, and it has worked like a charm.
Matt Kemp: At this point, it's probably best to forget about 2011, at least for a while. Kemp may have been the best player in the game then. Now, he has been diminished by injuries and he's often overlooked on his own team, overshadowed by Puig, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez. But he has been steadily productive in the No. 5 spot in the order, batting .391 since May 3. He has raised his average from .205 to .276 and pretty much sewn up the starting center-field gig.
Paul Maholm, LHP: The Dodgers have used him three times in relief and he has yet to give up a run or a walk. He has made six starts and has a 5.35 ERA, having given up 10 runs (only five earned) and 11 hits Wednesday night. Based on that small sample size, he might be better suited to pitch out of the bullpen. Luckily, Hyun-Jin Ryu is expected to come off the 15-day disabled list next week, so that's probably where Maholm is headed.
Brian Wilson RHP: The Dodgers had a lot riding on his success and it is looking more and more like a losing wager. Wilson has a 10.32 ERA and that might be deceptively good. Wilson has given up three home runs, the most he has given up in a full season since 2008. He is walking nearly a batter an inning. His problems are a combination of command and velocity, but aside from putting him back on the disabled list, there's no ready solution.
Gloves: In speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Adrian Gonzalez said the Dodgers had addressed their defensive shortcomings. Perhaps he spoke too soon. The fielding unraveled again in an ugly second inning Wednesday night. Dee Gordon backed up and booted a chopper by pitcher Anthony DeSclafani for an error that led to five unearned runs. In the same inning, Carl Crawford misplayed a Giancarlo Stanton line drive into a double and A.J. Ellis neglected to cover home, allowing Stanton to score all the way from second on an infield hit. This team has to figure out a way to catch the ball better.