Friday, November 22, 2013
Inside the numbers: Chris Young
By Mark Simon
What kind of a player is Chris Young? Let’s try to answer that by looking at his numbers.
At the plate
Young is a career .235 hitter. His batting average rates fifth-lowest among the 136 players whom Baseball-Reference.com deems active, who have at least 3,000 at-bats. His .200 batting average in 2013 also ranked fifth-worst among those with at least 300 at-bats. (He had 335.)
There are a couple of things Young does that will frustrate Mets fans. One is that he strikes out a lot. He had 93 whiffs in 335 at-bats last season and has had five seasons of at least 130 strikeouts.
The other is that he hits a lot of fly balls and pop ups. When Young has hit the ball over the past three seasons, it has been a fly ball or line drive 70 percent of the time, the highest rate in the sport.
But Young does two things as a hitter that would seem to be appealing to Mets management. One is that he hits for power, with four seasons of at least 20 home runs. And the kind of power that should survive Citi Field.
Of his 12 home runs last season, six were termed "no doubters," by Hittrackeronline.com, meaning the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence.
That was tied for the most such homers on the Athletics (and surprisingly were twice as many as Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes).
Young’s other positive trait is his walk rate. He’s walked in 11 percent of his plate appearances over the last three seasons, a rate that ranks in the top 20 percent among major-league hitters. Not surprisingly given the strikeout and walk numbers, he rates in the top 20 percent of hitters in terms of pitches per plate appearance in that span as well.
In the field
Young’s history as a defender is up and down. The ups are better than the downs, but the downs are more recent.
In 2010 and 2011, Young combined for 38 Defensive Runs Saved in center field, which ranked sixth-best in baseball and second-best among those at the position, trailing only Austin Jackson’s 42 for the Detroit Tigers. Young’s run saving came in the form of corralling fly balls, particularly those hit to the deepest parts of center field.
His arm has historically rated from average to below average, only ranking above average in one year.
Young had seven Defensive Runs Saved in 2012, but dropped to -6 last season with the Athletics, due to the combination of a poor throwing arm rating and less success at catching deep fly balls.
If the Mets do put Young in a corner spot, it won’t be new ground, but it’s not something with which he has a lot of experience. Only 39 of his 903 career starts in the outfield have come in left or right field.
On the bases
Young is a fair to decent base stealer with 122 career stolen bases, a 76 percent success rate and three seasons with at least 20 steals, the most recent coming when he swiped 22 in 2011. The one knock would be that he’s only 32-for-47 (68 percent) when trying to steal second over the past three seasons.
Young has occasionally had issues with straying too far off a base. He was picked off six times in 2007 and seven in 2011, but only once in the last two seasons.
He also takes extra bases on hits at a very good rate, which fits in well on this team. Over the past two seasons, he was on first base when a double was hit 10 times and scored on eight of them. He also scored on 10 of the 12 singles hit while he was on second base. Those both are small samples, but they rate high-end.
The overall package
Young has ranged from a 0-WAR player (a bench player) to a 5.5 WAR player (a borderline All-Star), with the latter numbers being largely due to his defensive success and durability. (He played 156 games in each of the two seasons in which he was a 5-WAR or better.)
Neither of those two things has been a part of his last two years, in which he was a 2-WAR player and a 0-WAR player. That’s what made him affordable.
Mets fans are familiar with Young’s abilities. They resemble those of Mike Cameron, who played for the team in 2004 and 2005, and who shifted to right field in his second year to accommodate Carlos Beltran (which didn’t work out so well, with both getting injured in a collision in 2005).
Cameron rates as Young’s second-most similar player through age 29, per Bill James’ Similarity Scores. At age 30, Cameron had 18 homers, 17 steals and won a Gold Glove with the Mariners.
If the Mets get anything close to that from Young in 2014, they’ll feel pretty good about their acquisition.