The Two Chris Youngs

We all know there’s the absurdly tall Chris Young, the talented pitcher who refuses to stay healthy and then there’s also the absurdly athletic Chris Young who patrols center field in Arizona and has a penchant for the swing-and-miss.

But this post isn’t some kind of wacky odd-couple attempt at finding commonalities between the respective ballplayers, it’s about the outfielder Chris Young and the unexpected and rather peculiar trends in looking at his results so far in 2012.

Young, 28, has been a run-producing and stolen base threat since arriving as an everyday player back in 2007. But in fantasy baseball, he’s always come with the very clear problem of a low batting average — and in some years so low so as to make him almost unusable. But 2012 has been a bit of a bizarro year for Young, who is hitting for a decent average and striking out less while maintaining excellent patience and still hitting for power.

Taking his numbers on the season, his .270/.369/.506 slash line is easily the best of his career, albeit in just over 100 plate appearances. Along the way, his strikeout rates have continued a downward trend since 2009 while his walk rate has actually continued to climb since 2010:

But what’s perhaps more impressive are his contact rates. Both his swinging strike rates and his overall contact rates have improved markedly in 2012:

His swinging strike rate is only 6.2%, down from a high of 10.2% in 2009. That’s pretty remarkable for a player who has never struck out less than 130 times in a season.

While this is certainly progress, I can feel the burning ire of the small sample size mob, and I certainly recognize that – but recall that a player’s contact rate stabilizes in as few as 100 at bats, while the strikeout rate stabilizes around 150 at bats. While there’s still a little ways to go on the strikeout rate, this trend in contact and strikeouts may very well be a permanent change to his profile.

However, Young’s sample size is small, of course, because of a shoulder injury that landed him on the disabled list for a number of weeks. And in fact, the shoulder injury is relevant to the discussion too, although the sample size gets even smaller as we drill.

The injury is relevant because before he hit the disabled list, Chris Young was on a real tear. He started the season hitting .410/.500/.897 with five home runs and 13 RBI in 46 plate appearances. He struck out only five times over that span. Since returning, he’s hit .160/.263/.200 with no home runs, no stolen bases and he’s struck out 13 times in 57 plate appearances.

Whether this is just the cold reality of regression or whether he’s simply not healthy yet, I don’t know. But if you’re an owner, you have a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, you have a Chris Young with the highest ISO (.236) and contact rate in his career, the lowest strikeout and swinging strike rates of his career, and the one thing that really limited his value — the batting average — is finally decent. On the other hand, he’s just spent the last two weeks doing absolutely nothing other than a fair amount of tweeting at @CY24_7.

If you’re a buyer, you’ll also want to monitor Chris Young — because his value might very well be at the lowest point of the season. If your squad is in serious need of a power and speed infusion, you might want to kick the proverbial tires.

In either case, the next two weeks will probably say a lot about whether Young is healthy, whether he can regain his early season form, and whether this new version of Young with fewer strikeouts and better contact will stick around.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

12 Responses to “The Two Chris Youngs”

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  1. Dan Z says:

    Would selling high on a guy like Samardzjia to buy low on a guy like chris young (ARI) be a bad idea? Even in a league that counts K and OPS Young can be useful with the power speed combo and hes certainly not going to get any cheaper, as you alluded to.

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  2. Reverend Jim says:

    Damm, I was hoping when I clicked on the link that this would be about Chris Young and not Chris Young.

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  3. Snarf says:

    I am a huge fan of Chris Young and believe that the progress he’s made is real. When he gets back in the groove again (’cause he’s a streaky hitter) you’ll wish you had him on your team.

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  4. cs3 says:

    sounds like pre-injury Young was crispy, and post-injury Young is not.

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  5. GilaMonster says:

    Thanks for this article Micheal. I’ve been meaning to bring this exact argument up in the chats.

    However, I believe it is clearly related to his injury related as his plate disapline is still quite good. If we look at his last 7 games. 7:5 BB/B ratio which is excellent.
    He had 8 rough games coming back from the injury and is likely trying to find his groove. It is possible he abandoned his plate discipline in order to get his swing or he had a relapse. Plus shoulder injuries aren’t great for power.

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  6. Richard says:

    Chris Young change his swing during the off season in an attempt to make better contact. He stated he was hitting the ball much better at the beginning of the year with the new swing. He started the season on a tear, but he has historically started fast. Unfortunately, the injury sidelined him and according to his manager they brought him back a bit too early. Looks like maybe he is starting to get closer to 100% as he is starting to make better contact again. I am betting that he will start making improvement as we move through June and hopefully be up to full speed in July.

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  7. Marty says:

    Sold low on Chris Young for Johan Santana the day before his no-hitter. He’ll turn it around but not to the point of being a fantasy stud.

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  8. Mephisto says:

    Mr Barr posted on June 6th: “…the next two weeks will probably say a lot about…Young…”

    Well he’s been absolute garbage since his return. Time to cut bait?

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    • DBA455 says:

      Seems awfully likely that his shoulder hasn’t healed. Not clear why the Dbacks didn’t give it another month.

      On the surface it doesn’t seem so different from what crippled Heyward’s 2011.

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