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Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Mets early WAR leader? Surprise, it's EY

By Mark Simon

Who has been most integral to the Mets' success this season? Oddly enough (perhaps not given the Mets' slow offensive start), their Wins Above Replacement leader through the first 25 games is a guy hitting .216 with 26 strikeouts in 23 games -- Eric Young Jr.

The samples are still small and the numbers can be unreliable, but Young has already accumulated more WAR (1.1) than he had in his modestly impressive 2013 season. He's actually tied for 10th in the NL in that stat.

With Juan Lagares hopeful of returning to the lineup soon, Young may be the odd man out of the outfield, but his value to the team may warrant more playing time.

How does a player with such unimpressive basic numbers have that much WAR already?

The obvious skill: Speed
Young has been a burner on the bases in 2014, with 12 steals in 13 attempts (he’s 50-for-58 as a Met) and he’s scored three times from second base the four times a single has been hit.

That’s part of the reason he’s scored 20 runs despite having only 19 hits and 12 walks. He’s also only hit into one double play, important because it means he’s avoided killing rallies.

Young’s baserunning has already been valued at being worth three runs for the Mets, padding his WAR total a bit.

Surprising skill: Defense
Young has been a far better defender than advertised since joining the Mets. He earned a Gold Glove nomination in left field last season and that success has carried over.

His six Defensive Runs Saved rank second among leftfielders in 2014.

Those six Runs Saved have been split three ways. Young has been solid at getting to the balls he should get, which accounts for two runs. He’s gotten to base hits quickly, deterring baserunner advancement, which accounts for two runs saved, and his robbery of a Brandon Phillips' home run in the opening week of the season also netted him a pair of runs saved.

Skill that could be better (but isn’t as bad as you think): Hitting
Young’s hitting has come in spurts this season. He’s hitting only .135 at Citi Field, but is 12-for-36 with 12 runs scored and nine steals in nine road games.

Young is striking out at a very high rate, with 26 in 88 at-bats, but he’s also done well at drawing walks, with 12. That takes a .216 batting average and turns it into a .320 on-base percentage, which is actually 11 points better than the National League average and 24 points better than the team’s average.

Being average is a good thing, per Wins Above Replacement. Being slightly above is worth a couple of runs at this point in the season.

Looking ahead
Young has only finished with a positive WAR total in one of his five previous major-league seasons, and there’s a long way to go. His basestealing success and defensive numbers are going to be very tough to sustain, and that will likely keep his WAR in check.

But at least for now, he’s proven to be an integral player, whose overachieving but respectable start still leaves room to get better. Just like the Mets themselves.