LOS ANGELES – Imagine the offensive force Yasiel Puig can and/or will be once he masters the nuances of base running. The problem is, he’s nowhere close to the nuances.
Dodgers coach Davey Lopes, who stole 557 career bases, spent part of Tuesday afternoon in the muggy afternoon sun at Turner Field teaching Puig some of the more basic points of taking leads from first base. Dee Gordon joined in the discussion at one point.
Puig, who is among the fastest players in the National League, has just seven stolen bases, 44 fewer than Gordon, the major-league leader. He also has been picked off first base twice in the past 10 days. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Puig often has poor footwork when getting back to the bag. Monday night, Freddie Freeman tagged him in the groin region as Puig tried to get back standing up. It would have been a more difficult tag if Puig dove.
The Dodgers thought the pitcher, Julio Teheran, was balking, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think Puig needs to improve his leads.
The Dodgers hope baserunning will be a winter pet project of Puig’s. They think it’s too late in the season to work on more advanced concepts like reading pitchers and maximizing secondary leads. They don’t want to cloud his head with too many new concepts. Lopes said he hopes to revisit some of the finer points by next spring training.
The hope is that Puig will one day be a 30 home run, 30 steals talent. He is 23 years old and coming from a different baseball culture in Cuba.
“I think him being a base stealer is a matter of him putting the time in to become one,” Mattingly said. “The study part of it, the technique part of it, reading the keys, I mean, it’s not easy. There have been numerous guys who had speed over the years and didn’t really steal bases.”