What happens when your most dynamic player struggles?
For the moment, you keep winning. Which is what the Dodgers have managed to do while their Boy Wonder, Yasiel Puig, has fallen into a deep slump.
Puig is hitless in his last 18 at-bats and hasn’t hit a home run since July 31 (88 at-bats). And those aren't even his most concerning numbers.
Offensively, Puig has been just sort of a guy for almost two months, which is like saying Scarlett Johansson has been just sort of a girl.
On June 6 he had an impressive slash line of .336/.430/.593. Since then, it’s .269/.350/.408.
Through the first 56 games (as of June 6), Puig had 11 home runs and 40 RBIs in 214 at-bats. Since then, he’s had two homers and 19 RBIs in 277 at-bats.
He’s starting to look frustrated at the plate too, which is completely understandable. He’s been a different hitter.
Picking June 6 as a turning point is not arbitrary. That’s the date Puig told The Times’ Dylan Hernandez that he experienced tightness in his left hip after making an awkward slide — is there any other kind with Puig? — in an attempt to break up a double play in Colorado.
Hernandez wrote two weeks later that Puig seemed resigned to playing the rest of the season with the discomfort and wasn’t concerned that he might develop a more serious injury by continuing to play.
“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “I’m just thinking of getting treatment and giving the best of myself on the field. I try to play all nine innings.”
Only right now, he’s not helping the team much at the plate. His strikeouts are up a tad and his walks down slightly, but mostly it’s his missing power that’s troubling. A slugging-percentage drop of .593 to .408 is what you might call serious.
Of course, last year he went into a somewhat similar funk. He had a ridiculous line of .373/.436/.581 in his first 62 games, and a line of .233/.319/.445 over his last 42 games. Maybe he’s playing hurt, maybe he’s just being Puig.
The Dodgers have managed to win five of their last six games, are 18 games over .500 for the first time this season and lead the Giants by five games in the National League West, so it’s not like they’re falling apart without Puig’s power.
But with Hanley Ramirez just 1 for 12 since coming off the disabled list, the Dodgers could use Puig returning to form. They’re playing weak teams right now and have an opportunity to seize the West, but if Puig doesn’t get it going, it could prove a tight race all the way through September.