Something Old On Young | The Process Report

Something Old On Young

Topsy-turvy is a sound way to describe the last 12 months of Michael Young’s career. After hitting .284/.330/.444 in 2010, the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre and acquired Mike Napoli, thereby squeezing Young’s role. Young then complained and—depending on whom you believe—asked for a trade; a wish that the Rangers came close to fulfilling with the Rockies. In the end, no trade occurred and Young made amends by hitting .338/.380/.474 while playing in 159 games across four defensive positions.

Why is any of this relevant? Because an improvement in performance sometimes means an alteration in player’s underlying aspects. One of my thoughts heading into the Rangers-Rays series last October was to treat Young like Derek Jeter and shift him to hit a certain way. The batted ball data backed up the idea then, as I wrote:

So, how do you combat that? Shade the right fielder towards the right foul line, move B.J. Upton into right-center, and ask Carl Crawford to cover whatever is left between left and left center field.

Replace Crawford’s name with Desmond Jennings and the same gist is in place, or at least should be if Young’s batted ball profile has remained static. Here is a look at his flyball and groundball numbers since 2008, courtesy of FanGraphs:

FB% LF CF RF

2011

12

23.4

43.4

2010

12.9

31.1

53.2

2009

13.7

31.1

51

2008

10.3

23.6

48.9

GB% LF CF RF

2011

74.1

46.7

23.6

2010

75.7

53.9

23.1

2009

69.5

45.8

22.1

2008

72.1

56.2

22

As you can see, Young tends to hit groundballs to left and center fields while putting the ball in the air to right field. The monkey wrench in shifting Jennings too far towards center field and giving Young an automatic double, perhaps more, if he hits a ball into no man’s land in left field. Some of that potential is minimized by the speed of Jennings and range of Longoria, but all the great defense in the world sometimes cannot expunge good hitting.

Another aspect to consider is the game theory involved. It is unquantifiable, but if Young notices the defensive alignment shifting on him, he could become more likely to look for a pitch on the inside corner to pull. At the same time, he could become more likely to look away, suspecting that the Rays would never risk burning themselves with shoddy pitch selection. The danger present is that Young guesses right, but how is that any different than any other at-bat?



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