After watching the Los Angeles Dodgers record another victory on Friday night, it is evident that the Yasiel Puig effect is still in full force.
Since being called up on June 3, Puig has led the Dodgers to a 52-20 record for a .722 winning percentage. This incredible run of success has helped move the Dodgers from being in last place in the NL West and sitting 10.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks to now leading the NL West by 10.5 games over the Diamondbacks.
This has been a run for the ages, and helps support the belief that Puig should be the NL MVP for the 2013 season.
Critics will immediately point out that Puig can only play a maximum of 104 games on the 162-game schedule, but this argument detracts from the true meaning of the MVP award. The true meaning of the award is to find the player who has been most valuable to their team during the season, or more specifically which team would drop off furthest if that specific player had not played.
In Puig’s case it is clear that without him showing up on June 3, the Dodgers would never have gotten into the position they are in today. Manager Don Mattingly was on the verge of being fired in the days preceding the call-up of Puig, which was viewed as a panic move to save the manager’s job, and management was ready to blow up their $200 million roster at the same time.
Then came in Puig and everything changed in an instant. He came in smashing baseballs, running through walls, gunning runners out from the warning track and generally playing baseball with a combination of power, speed and skill that hadn’t been seen since Bo Jackson was gracing the Kauffman Stadium outfield.
But Puig hasn’t only been great on the eye — he has put up a stat line of .346/.405/.558 with 12 home runs in 70 games played that would make any player proud. For the number crunching sabermatricians of the world, this statline has resulted in a 3.8 WAR, but this number does not do justice to how the feel around Chavez Ravine has changed.
Dodger Stadium has gone from sparse crowds before the arrival of Puig to full crowds on a nightly basis today, which has in turn brought an energy that feeds off on players and gives the team a home field advantage it previously didn’t have.
While the Dodgers sometimes have to deal with unwanted antics from Puig such as him making mistakes on the basepaths or not hitting the cutoff man, these mistakes are part of the youthful exuberance that he comes with. As a matter of fact, this youthful exuberance is exactly what has brought life to the Dodgers and brought them back from the brink of a lost season to World Series favorites.
This ability to change his entire franchise’s fortune is what puts Puig a notch ahead of fellow star players Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto, and makes him the most deserving candidate for NL MVP.