Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The case for Delmon Young

I've long been a Delmon Young apologist, and I still think his acquisition was a good move, given the circumstances ( a glut of pitching prospects with a need for a right handed bat, especially one whose star was bright) even if, perhaps, some of the results haven't been so good. This year, just like every year, people are on his case, and would like to see him traded. Frankly, some of his failings are wearing on me too, and I can't help but be disappointed that someone I have vouched for so ardentlyhaving such a dreadful year.
Anyways, I wanted to dig a little deeper and see what Young's problem's are this year, and see if there is hope. Some of the most typically addressed problems with Young are A) his strikeouts and B) his play in the field. I looked first at those issues, using the objective Fangraphs.
First, the strikeouts. He is currently striking out at 22%, which is certainly higher than his breakout season last year, when it was at 14%, but really, it's only a shade higher than his career mark, just short of 19% of his at bats.  And really, it's only 131 at bats into the season, so the strikeout rate could fluctuate. What IS unusual is that his swing rate is down 6%. For those who are concerned with his aggression at the plate, it's actually lower this year. So he is striking out, yes, but I don't think that's the issue.
Second, the fielding. He has looked terrible and indifferent. I won't argue with that. The surprising thing, to me anyway, is that according to Fangraphs' UZR rating, is that, by far, this is his best fielding year in his career. He is an above average left fielder this year. Strictly speaking, the only problem with his glove is that he doesn't demonstrate any enthusiasm, which is not a statistically quantifiable measure. I think, then, that neither his strikeouts or his glove are problems. Or at least, they aren't bigger issues this year than any other year.
That said, I have come across a couple of problems. First, his infield fly rate is astronomical, at nearly 19% of his at bats, whereas 5% is typical. Furthermore, after a few seasons in which his home run rate per fly ball was 10%, it is way down at 2% this season. What does this mean? It means that when he does make contact, it is very poor contact. This cuts into his BABIP rate, his batting average for balls in play. If you have a more typical mix of line drives, fly balls and ground balls, it works out to .290ish for the league. Young usually hits a lot of line drives, and his career BABIP is .329. This year, it is .260. If he starts making better contact, just slightly better contract, his numbers are going to skyrocket.
The other issue is that Young almost always starts slowly. If you look at his career averages, he has never hit better than .247 in April, and last season was the first time he hit better than .264 in May. Keep in mind that Young missed a stretch of the season with an oblique injury, his first time on the DL in his entire career. Just like 2009 when his mother's untimely passing delayed his season start, it's probably taking a while for him to get going.
So, while everyone can be rightfully dismayed by his season to this point, I think it's important to realize that there are plenty of components available that can make the Twins a successful team next year, and Delmon Young is one of them. Part of being a good fan is optimism.

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Blogger Jason Berman said...

good stuff. I'm hoping that Young gets going. The twins need him to heat up more now than than ever.

4:54 PM  

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