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2013 Offensive Stars Struggling to Start 2014
Major League Baseball 2014
Slow starts for Puig and Davis
As of Tuesday night, both Yasiel Puig and Chris Davis were hitting below .260 for the season and neither one was among the league leaders in homeruns. After Tuesday's ballgame, Yasiel Puig had a .254 batting average with two homeruns hit on the season, while Chris Davis had a .234 batting average with one homerun hit on the season so far. Both of these breakout stars from 2013 were MVP candidates in their leagues last season, but they are being pitched differently to start this season. Davis and Puig are both posting solid on base percentages early on, because pitchers are not challenging them as often. However their signature power numbers are not present early on this season like they were all of last season. Their strikeout numbers are also significant early on this season, to go along with their higher walk totals.
Red flags from last season
Last season Yasiel Puig struck out 97 times while getting only 382 at bats in the big leagues. Chris Davis struck out 199 times in 584 at bats over the length of the 2013 regular season. For Puig that was a 22.5% strikeout rate, and for Davis that was a 29.6% strikeout rate. Both of these numbers for these batters were too high and would fall into the category of red flags as indicators that their performance was not sustainable. For Puig, his downfall is from swinging at one pitch in particular that is not in the strike zone. Puig will repeatedly swing at sliders down and away from him without making much of an effort to recognize the pitch and take it for a ball. For Davis, his strikeout rate is rooted in the fact that he over swings quite often because he wants every one of his plate appearances to end with a homerun. The strikeout to walk ratio of each of these hitters last season, suggested that they did not have the discipline at the plate to maintain the batting averages that they posted in 2013.
Adjustments moving forward
Both of these hitters will have to prove that they can adjust to overcome the slow starts that they have gotten off to this season. The slow start has probably eliminated the possibility of them repeating last season's production, but there is still time for them to salvage a very productive season. Their walk totals so far this season, suggest that they can salvage good seasons if they remain willing to take their base on balls. Undisciplined at bats however, will most likely result in further extension to the slumps that these players are in to start the season. This storyline makes both these hitters interesting to keep an eye on as the season progresses, to see if they have what it takes to be great players that can show resiliency.
By this point it has become evident to the fan bases that root for these players, that these players are not producing in ways that became typical for them last season. Often it is in these situations where players like this will make their return to their typical numbers in a big way. When the highlight of the opposition's game plan is no longer on a player like Puig or Davis, they can take advantage of pitching that is no longer specifically attacking them as the focal point. Without another player in the lineup to take attention away from players like Puig or Davis, this may not happen. Fortunately for them, the Orioles and Dodgers have players like Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz. As a result, the expectation is that Puig and Davis will get going at some point this season, but it may not be before they have been moved in the lineup a few times.
The early struggles of Puig and Davis, serve to highlight the fact that pitching paces the game of baseball as it is played today. Offensive production may be worth the most wins, but completely focused pitching is very hard to beat. The depth of the Dodgers' and Orioles' offenses could help to cover up the shortcomings of these two players early on. Ultimately these players need to repair the holes in their swings if they hope to get going at a strong rate this season. Yasiel Puig and Chris Davis can't continue to consistently swing at the same bad pitch if they hope to be able to take control of their at bats as the season progresses.