Delmon Young Striking Out Looking

The Tampa Bay Rays used to be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays used to have a player named Bobby Smith. On August 24, 1999, in a game against the Chicago White Sox started by Jim Parque, Smith finished 0-for-4, striking out looking four times. To get more recent — just last June 14, in a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Texas Rangers, Justin Upton finished 2-for-5, striking out looking three times. Many strikeouts are called, but most strikeouts are not. This is something you knew, even if this isn’t something you knew.

Last year, Jerry Sands got into nine games, batting 24 times. He struck out nine times, and he struck out looking four times. Last year, Delmon Young got into 151 games, batting 608 times. He struck out 112 times, and he struck out looking four times. Of Delmon Young’s strikeouts, 4% were called strikeouts. No regular or semi-regular player posted a lower rate of called strikeouts.

Of all of Delmon Young’s problems, strikeouts haven’t really been one of them, as his strikeout rate is right around the league average. This is mostly because his swing rate is decidedly above the league average, and he isn’t awful at making contact. When you combine decent contact skills with an aggressive swing trait, you end up with fewer deep counts and therefore fewer potential strikeout counts. Young, for his career, has averaged about 3.4 pitches per plate appearance.

And when you have an aggressive swing trait, you end up with fewer called strikeouts, because of all the swinging. If you swing a lot against the average pitch, you’re going to swing a lot when one more strike means you’re out. Delmon Young became a regular in 2007. Here are his year-to-year called strikeout totals:

2007: 13
2008: 8
2009: 10
2010: 9
2011: 10
2012: 4

That four is incredible, given that Young was just about an everyday player. Interestingly, in 2007, between April 26 and May 4, Young struck out looking six times. Last year he struck out looking four times, and not once between May 25 and the end of September. There was a stretch where Young played 111 games — starting 107 of them — without getting called out one time. He struck out swinging 78 times.

We look back now at Delmon Young’s four called strikeouts from the 2012 regular season, to see what we can see, if in fact we can see anything.

Date: April 13
Pitcher: Hector Santiago
Result: Delmon Young strikes out looking

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It’s a pitch in a full count, and Delmon Young thinks he’s drawn a walk. It’s a fastball at 94 miles per hour over the plate and above the knees, so there’s not a whole lot of question that this is a strike, and not a ball. Of course, if Delmon Young better understood the difference between most strikes and most balls, he wouldn’t be Delmon Young as we know him. Santiago’s body language is interesting, though, for whatever it’s worth. It appears he’s frustrated with himself before he realizes he got the strikeout. Maybe he can’t believe he got to a three-ball count against Delmon Young.

From stage left to stage right, the fans in the background are increasingly animated.

Date: April 15
Pitcher: Zach Stewart
Result: Delmon Young strikes out looking

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It’s a pitch in a full count, and Delmon Young thinks he’s drawn a walk. It’s a fastball at 92 miles per hour just in the corner of the zone, maybe. You think Zach Stewart had a plan for Delmon Young in this at bat?

youngab

The fourth pitch was earlier called a strike. The seventh pitch seems close enough so as not to be objectionable. Young nearly sprints out of the box to first base before he’s punched out for the second time in three days. It looks like Delmon Young is really excited when he thinks he’s drawn a walk. Which is understandable, given the rarity. You know how thoroughly satisfying it is to draw a base on balls in a baseball video game?

Date: May 24
Pitcher: Justin Masterson
Result: Delmon Young strikes out looking

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It’s a pitch in a full count, and Delmon Young thinks he’s drawn a walk. He’s less certain this time, though — he doesn’t really dart out of the box. This is Young’s first strikeout since May 16. Over the previous five games, he’d batted .444. “Young is really seeing the ball well,” an announcer might have said. He saw the ball well, here — right into Lou Marson‘s glove. Maybe Young learned from the two previous examples not to take the walk for granted. Maybe that’s why he didn’t jump out of the box right away. On the other hand, do we have any other evidence of Delmon Young learning with regard to behavior and the strike zone?

Date: October 1
Pitcher: Bruce Chen
Result: Delmon Young strikes out looking

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It’s a pitch in a 2-and-2 count, and Delmon Young knows he’s struck out. It’s a fastball at 88 miles per hour over the plate and above the knees. I’ll remind you that this is Delmon Young’s first called strikeout since May 24. With that in mind, he’s remarkably understanding about the whole thing. Between the start of September and the end of the regular season, Young struck out 32 times, against one unintentional walk. “Young is really not seeing the ball well,” an announcer might have said. Well duh.

We have now reviewed all four of Delmon Young’s 2012 called strikeouts. In three of them, Young thought he drew a walk. In none of them did Young actually draw a walk, because all of them were strikeouts. In conclusion, Delmon Young doesn’t swing at literally every pitch. In conclusion, these people are liars.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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enhanced performance
Guest
enhanced performance
3 years 4 months ago

Bravo! Great post!

Rob
Guest
Rob
3 years 4 months ago

In “fairness” to Young, he’s doing something mant, if not all MLB players do when called out on strike three. They try to steal the strike by taking a step toward first, even if they believe it’s a strike.

Yet that leads to another question. If Young rarely strikes out on a called strike, isn’t that a possible indication that he knows the strikzone better than we believe, but is perhaps too aggressive in swinging at pitches he believes he can drive, but can’t. In other words, maybe it’s an indication he can improve his hitting and walk rates if he changes his approach.

Radivel
Guest
Radivel
3 years 4 months ago

“Delmon Young can improve his hitting and walk rates if he changes his approach.”

An MLB team surely has a job for you.

Nik
Guest
Nik
3 years 4 months ago

Players who know the strike zone generally walk.

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 4 months ago

This just isn’t true at all.

People who know the strike zone, and have low swing rates walk.

Dan
Guest
Dan
3 years 4 months ago

Yet that leads to another question. If Young rarely strikes out on a called strike, isn’t that a possible indication that he knows the strikzone better than we believe, but is perhaps too aggressive in swinging at pitches he believes he can drive, but can’t.

First of all, I don’t see how it leads to that question, and second of all, even if it did, the answer is still no.

glenstein
Guest
glenstein
3 years 4 months ago

So even in his 4 strikeouts, 3 of them were specifically because Young was looking for the walk.

Heck, perhaps Young was looking for the walk against Chen, also.

Jake
Guest
Jake
3 years 4 months ago

That fourth one looks like one of those cases where the pitch is so good to hit that it surprised him and locked him up. Delmon Young and the art of hitting.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
3 years 4 months ago

Yeah he wasn’t looking for a centered pitch on 2-2, for sure.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
3 years 4 months ago

After he got rung up twice looking before tax day, he probably decided that he “wasn’t going to get cheated” for the rest of the year.

“Delmon Young thinks he’s drawn a walk” is one of the funniest things ever written, and you did it three times! I couldn’t stop laughing.

scobes
Guest
scobes
3 years 4 months ago

“You know how thoroughly satisfying it is to draw a base on balls in a baseball video game?”

I want to have babies with this sentence.

Ewan Ross
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Ewan Ross
3 years 4 months ago

Easily the best part of this article is that the top hot generated by the rather innocuous link at the end is a Calcaterra article headlined… “A “highly intoxicated” Del on Young arrested, charged with assault”

Even in a search for his 2nd most undesirable quality is overwhelmed by his most undesirable one… His personality.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
3 years 4 months ago

The catcher in the first two seemingly moved his glove up into the strike zone. Maybe Delmon was right?

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 4 months ago

Do you have numbers to back up that statement that most strikeouts are not called? It seems to me that, since people started really caring about OBP more than BA about eight or nine years ago or so, the VAST majority of strikeouts I see are from walk-happy troglodytes whose bats never leave their shoulders, a la Nick Swisher. If I had to guess, just based on my own recollections and without actually looking at numbers, I’d assume that looking / swinging strikeout ratios in the last three or four years have hovered around an 80/20 ratio.

Conversely, fifteen or twenty years ago, when the thinking of “just put it in play and hope something turns up” was more prevalent and drawing a lot of walks was seen as a bad thing by most old school fans, it was probably 80/20 in the other direction. I could be entirely wrong; that’s just what it appears like to me.

Oh, Beepy
Guest
Oh, Beepy
3 years 4 months ago

So your position is, based on absolutely nothing at all resembling anything, that 80% of strikeouts are on a called strike three, and you felt strongly enough to argue with a guy writing for a baseball stat website about called strikeouts that his position is wrong?

Awesome.

jmei
Guest
jmei
3 years 4 months ago

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any database that accurately tracks swinging versus called strikeouts on an aggregate level. But if we assume that the percentage of called/swinging strikes somewhat tracks the percentage of called/swinging strikeouts, that data might be useful. From B-R’s pitches batting page, the percentage of strikes looking in 2012 was 28% and the percentage of strikes swinging in 2012 was 16%. The percentage of strikes looking in 1988 (the first year data was available) was 24% and the percentage of strikes swinging was 14$.

So it does appear that there has been a significant shift from swinging strikes to looking strikes over the past few decades, but I would wager that the magnitude of the shift is much, much less than you’ve hypothesized. It wouldn’t surprise me if looking strikeouts went from 20% to 30%, for instance, but there’s no way it shifted to 80%.

JChang
Guest
JChang
3 years 4 months ago

Seems like there is a Delmon Young post here on the 1st Monday of every month. He probably gets more criticism than Mike Trout gets praise.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
3 years 4 months ago

I was going to say the same thing, without trying to be critical of a free website (which I enjoy reading).

Delmon Young seems to be considered a bad joke around here, yet there’s a lot of talk about him. I, personally, don;t find him or his situation and performance to be all that interesting or print-worthy.

I’m not ridiculing DY at all, pitch recognition, including balls and strikes at the level he’s at is extremely difficult. There’s also the aspect of DY simply doing what every coach has encouraged him to do since he was 5, “Swing the bat Delmon”. I’m sure Delmon won lots of games for his coaches growing up, and those wins did not come via the walk. I would not be surprised if some of his coaches actually chastised him for taking pitches as a youth.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
3 years 4 months ago

This post is hilarious! It’s a really enjoyable piece to read. Thanks, Jeff.

B
Guest
B
3 years 4 months ago

Delmon Young was suspended for 50 minor league games after he threw a bat at an umpire (intentional or not) in protest of a called strikeout. Delmon Young either learned his lesson very well or knows himself well enough not to put himself in that position with any regularity.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
3 years 4 months ago

This post wins the internet.

Hason Jeyward
Member
Hason Jeyward
3 years 4 months ago

Can you share where you get your data on called strikeouts vs swinging strikeouts?

Larry
Guest
Larry
3 years 4 months ago

I feel like Delmon is a pet project for some writers who come up with these stories – he’s been so comically mediocre but of these years Delmon might just put it all together and his apparent fanboys will rejoice [or call him overrated and move onto another so-so player to latch onto].

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
3 years 4 months ago

Delmon Young has fan boys?

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 4 months ago

Delmon Young thanks you for the complement. Very few people call him mediocre.

Paul
Guest
Paul
3 years 4 months ago

Unreal post Jeff, I love reading your stuff always informs me and makes me laugh.

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