On Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers' budding star Yasiel Puig went 4-for-5 to raise his batting average to an incredible .436 on the season.
Entering Monday, Puig led all National League outfielders (who have a minimum of 100 plate appearances) by a wide margin in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Such a feat would normally mean a guaranteed spot in the All-Star Game, which will be held in just over two weeks.
The only problem: Puig has been in the majors for just one month.
The selection process for the All-Star Game, though hardly perfect, is intended to reward the best performances over the first full half of the season; by the break, Puig will have played in only one-third of his team's games.
Still, Puig has turned in nothing but highlight reel plays since he was first called up on June 3. He capped his debut game by doubling off a sleeping baserunner with a bullet from right field; he hit four home runs in his first five games; he made this ridiculous throw:
All of that came within Puig's first seven games with the Dodgers, leading the league to quickly name him National League Player of the Week. Already, people around baseball are comparing to to all-time greats like Roberto Clemente.
While Puig has only been a big leaguer for one month, that one month has been historically incredible. The 22-year-old Cuban defector ended June with 44 hits, the second-most ever in a player's first month in the league. Only Joe DiMaggio (48 hits) has ever done better.
As of Monday, Puig had the eleventh-highest WAR (wins above replacement) of any NL outfielder despite having played in only 26 games, or roughly one-third as many as most of the players above him on that list. Had he played even two-thirds as many games as those other outfielders while maintaining the same level of production, he'd rank second in WAR.
As Fox's Ken Rosenthal pointed out, 74 players made the All-Star Game last year, or nearly 10 percent of all major leaguers. It's hard to imagine Puig, for all his accomplishments and all the headlines, isn't in that same tier.
Still, whether or not Puig deserves to be an All-Star, he faces a tough time getting there.
Fans are notoriously awful at voting for deserving candidates — Carlos Beltran, who as of last week led all NL outfielders by over one million votes, ranks 21st in WAR. But fans don't even have the option of picking Puig outright. Since Puig came up so late in the season, his name isn't on the official ballot, forcing fans to write it in.
The Dodgers have launched a write-in campaign backing Puig's candidacy, though given that he'd need to crack at least 2.4 million votes to make the starting lineup, the likelihood of that succeeding seems slim.
Puig could still get in the game if Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who will lead the NL team this year, taps him as a reserve. Yet Bochy has already indicated he's against that idea, saying, "I would have a hard time picking somebody who has been here three weeks, to be honest."
The league, on the other hand, may be quietly rooting for the electrifying Puig to make it onto the final roster. Viewership of the All-Star Game has steadily declined over the years. The game could certainly benefit from a jolt of excitement.
The 1976 All-Star Game drew 36.3 million viewers; by 1999, that figure was down to 17.6 million. Last year's installment, which drew just 10.9 million viewers, was the least-watched All-Star Game on record.
"Maximum entertainment should be the goal," Rosenthal wrote of the All-Star Game. "And right now, in this sport, Yasiel Puig is maximum entertainment."
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