Is Delmon Young Actually Swinging at Strikes?

It’s not a new thing for someone who writes about baseball to point out both that (a) Delmon Young was, for a number of years, one of the very top prospects in the entire minor leagues, and also that (b) he is not now, some number of years later, one of the very top players in the entire major leagues — is, in fact, only slightly better than replacement level over the course of 3,200-plus major-league plate appearances (or, roughly five full seasons’ worth of baseball).

It’s because of Young’s pedigree, however, that someone who writes about baseball (like the present author, for example) is always wondering if the second thing might be about to change. I am, certainly, more willing to regard a stretch of particularly good play from Young as more legitimately promising — as more a harbinger of likely future success — than, say, similar stretch of play from Willie Bloomquist.

All of which is why when Delmon Young homers in four consecutive games (as he has done in his last four, consecutively) one wonders if, perhaps, Delmon Young, Disappointment is on the verge of becoming Delmon Young, All-Time Baseball Great — or, at the very least, Delmon Young, League-Average Player.

Turns out, it’s also the sort of thing that the Detroit Free Press’s Shawn Windsor wonders, as well. Windsor, of course, has the advantage of being able to ask Delmon Young’s manager about such developments. In this case, Windsor did do that. And the difference, according to Leyland, between this version of Delmon Young and the other version is that this one is more selective.

Regard, blockquoted text:

“When Delmon is in a good groove he is swinging at strikes, and when he’s in a bad groove he is swinging at balls,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

Indeed, there’s no question that one of the major impediments between Young and stardom (or even competence) has been his inability to discern a ball from a strike.

Per our PITCHf/x data, Young has swung at slightly more than 40% of pitches outside of the strike zone since 2007, while the league-average O-Swing% has typically sat around 27-29%. Young has usually been among the bottom 5% of qualified batters in this regard.

It follows then that, if Young is hitting better, that perhaps one of the reasons is because he’s identifying pitches more ably.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Here, for example, are the pitches at which Young has offered during his four-game homer streak (courtesy Texas Leaguers):

And here, now, are the pitches taken by Young over that same stretch:

Given the relatively few pitches Young has seen over just the four-game sample, it’s actually possible just to count those at which he has swung — versus those he’s taken — outside of the zone.

Doing so, one finds that — depending on the how literal we’re being about the strike zone — that Young has swung at about eight or nine pitches out of the zone, and that he’s taken about 10 or 12 pitches. That is, at best, then, a four-game O-Swing% of 40% exactly — and, at worst, of 47.4%.

This, of course, is not to suggest that Young’s success is entirely random; that’s not a thing we can know. There are certain, unnamed players who possess what would be considered entirely miserable approaches, if said unnamed players weren’t also leading the majors in home runs. Whatever the reason for Young’s recent homer streak, however, the ability to tell a ball from a strike does not appear to be the cause.



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Jeff Moss
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Why did Delmon Young get hot this week? The Tigers faced lefties almost all week against KC and MIN.

Young can still hit LHP. His OPS is around .860 vs. LHP this year and under .600 against RHP I believe.

He is a platoon player. And because his defense stinks and he might only face a couple of LHP a week, he has very little value to the Tigers.

His struggles batting behind Fielder and Cabrera are one of the main reasons the Tigers struggled in the first half.

He just isn’t a good baseball player.

Terry Foster's Wife
Guest
Terry Foster's Wife

Hey, Jeff.

J6takish
Guest
J6takish

Tiger fans may be the most close minded fanbase as in regards to sabremetrics. Talking about platoon splits, you may as well write your articles in Greek

Nathan
Guest
Nathan

Dude, don’t lump us all together. We aren’t all of the “ZOMG BRANDON INGE IS TEH BEST@!!!12@” ilk. Some of us actually like real analysis.

J6takish
Guest
J6takish

Can’t we just trade Quintin Berry for Cano straight up?

RationalSportsFan
Guest

Out of Delmon’s four HRs in this little spurt, two were vs lefty starters and two were vs righty relievers.

In other words, his platoon splits clearly explain the recent streak. /sarcasm

byron
Member
Member
byron

No, clearly, the, uh, let’s say, the Reds, no wait, the Pirates! are the most close-minded fanbase to sabrmetrics. Because, they, like, use RBIs and Wins all the time. Clearly more than other fanbases.

Pacoheadley
Guest
Pacoheadley

Hey now, I’m a Tigers fan and… Wait, you are pretty much right, most of our fans are against the saber stats.

asdfasdf
Guest
asdfasdf

Fuck you

the fume
Guest
the fume

Peralta, Young, Raburn have all struggled to different degrees and are one of the the main detractions from this year vs. last year. I think it’s as simple as balls that were home runs last year are being caught at the warning track this year. Encouraging that this seems to be changing for Delmon, hopefully it does for Peralta (looking up) and Raburn (not so much yet) as well.

hey, lay off peralta
Guest
hey, lay off peralta

I think last year was definitely an aberration for Peralta. He hadn’t played that well since 2005, I think. He is roughly a league average player this year. Not that bad. The same applies to Avila.

The real blame is on Young, Boesch, and Raburn.

the fume
Guest
the fume

It’s become apparent over the last couple weeks that Avila has had knee troubles since last September. Supposedly he’s gotten the good word from the docs that pushing off of it when he hits isn’t going to do it any more damage, it’s just going to hurt a bunch, but I don’t think he has the opportunity to be 100% until next season at the earliest.

Polka
Guest

A-fing men to that!
Trade him, or bench him…

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