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.