Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Teams Line Up to Acquire Mediocre Player

Another day, another team interested in Michael Young. 

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the latest team to express interest in trading for the disgruntled former All-Star.  

“The Diamondbacks view Young as a possible upgrade over Melvin Mora at third base, but their talks with the Rangers have yet to escalate – and might not, according to major-league sources.

The D-Backs are in a similar position to the Marlins, another team that is pursuing Young but has only limited payroll flexibility.”

Yes, Young would be an upgrade over Mora, but not as big of an upgrade as many would like to believe.  Young’s reputation as both a leader and hitter far exceeds his actual capabilities.  After publicly demanding a trade; airing his grievances with GM Jon Daniels to the media; and having not one, but two temper-tantrums in two years after being asked to switch positions, it’s pretty clear to everyone (or at least it should be) that Young is not the team leader most of us assumed him to be.  I’m not saying he’s not within his rights to be disappointed.  In fact, he has every right to be upset.  I would be as well. That said, a true leader swallows his pride, and does what’s best for the team.  Young has had several opportunities to handle the situation with class and dignity, and he’s failed to do so every step of the way.

As a hitter, Young’s reputation is largely predicated upon two things:  (1) his ability to hit for power, and (2) the five consecutive 200-hit seasons he produced between 2003 and 2007.  While Young has retained his ability to hit for power, he hasn’t retained that same level of skill when it comes to getting on base.  Young, never skilled at drawing a walk, was the type of player who reached base the old fashion way (getting a hit), and achieved a paltry 6.7% walk rate during his ten year career.  As he aged, his ability to get on base, via the hit, regressed.  Not surprisingly, without a high batting average to prop up his OBP, Young began creating additional outs, thereby limiting his ability to contribute offensively.  As a result, Young has been a decidedly average hitter over the past four seasons, producing 9.3, 1.5, 27.6, and 8.0 weighted runs above average (wRAA).  His four year wRAA total of 46.4 runs puts him in the same company as Cody Ross, Marlon Byrd, and Adam LaRoche.  This shows that while Young is a solid hitter, he’s by no means elite.

While five consecutive 200-hit seasons might seem impressive, it’s really not when you consider the number of opportunities he was given (725 plate appearances per season, on average) to achieve that goal.*  Young’s streak of 200-hit seasons was largely opportunity based, and frequently came at the expense of plate discipline and creation of additional outs.  Furthermore, I don’t see how his five 200-hit seasons, the last of which occurred four years ago, have any bearing on his future performance.  Over the last three seasons, Young has had ample opportunity to prove he was still capable of accumulating 200 hits in a season.  Despite receiving similar number of plate appearances, he’s failed to come within reasonable striking distance of meeting that threshold.  This is a clear sign that Young’s hitting abilities are in a state of decline.  Considering his age, 34, and recent performance history, it’s pretty unlikely that Young will achieve another 200-hit season before his career ends.  While it’s factually correct that Young achieved five consecutive 200-hit seasons that fact is largely irrelevant when discussing his expected future performance.

* I don’t want to devalue his achievement, but there’s an important distinction to be made here.  The ability to hit is skill based.  The ability to accumulate hits is opportunity based.  In my opinion, Young’s achievement was largely based on opportunity.  His position in the batting order, along with his inability to draw walks (6.7 BB% for his career), gave him considerable opportunity to compile hits.  Hitters either more patient or hitting lower in the batting order would not have the same number of opportunities to compile hits as easily as Young; therefore, they’d like accumulate fewer hits as a result.  The difference in hit totals doesn’t make them lesser hitters than Young.  In fact, it’s possible they’re better than Young due to their ability to not only draw walks, but also create fewer outs.  Still, most people will consider the player with the higher hit total (Young) to be a better hitter.  Why?  Most fans and sports writers don’t consider the context of the situation when making that determination.

As for a potential trade, the Diamondbacks are in the same situation as the Dodgers and Marlins.  With little room for payroll flexibility, Arizona would likely need the Rangers to absorb a sizeable portion of the $48M remaining on Young’s contract.  How much would they want the Rangers to absorb?  I don’t want to speculate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were asked to eat anywhere from 50-75%.  Additionally, the Diamondbacks are not on Young’s no trade exception list, so the two sides would need Young’s buy-in prior to completing a trade. 

If you ask me, it sounds like the Diamondbacks are doing their due diligence by kicking the tires, which is something Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is famous for doing.  In all likelihood, trade discussions will not progress any further. 


  1. Just because you are given the opportunity it still means you have to perform. Young doesn't decide where he bats in the lineup. And granted he hasn't hit 200 hits for a couple years but he had 186 last year and almost scored 100 runs while amassing 36 doubles and 91 RBI--this best total he's had in three years. Yes he's getting older and yes he's subpar defensively but I think you're being WAY too critical here. And as for the whining I wouldn't be surprised if he showed up to spring training with a shirt bearing a giant middle finger and an "FU Texas Rangers" written on it. After continually jerking him around position wise and contract wise I think he's well within his rights. To call him mediocre is unfair in my opinion.

  2. @Corrye - I'm not saying that Young shouldn't get credit for his 200 hit seasons. He does. It takes a lot of skill to do that. Still, the fact he compiled so many hits is overrated. 200 hits in 600 ABs is treated the same as 200 hits in 700 ABs, yet it's pretty clear that they're not the same thing. That's the issue with counting stats. There's very little context to the situation.

    Same with Young's RBI totals. Sure, it look nice, but now many more opportunities did Young get to drive in runs than the average player? Let's assume had 300 chances to drive in those 91 runs. Some other random player named "A" drives in 91 runs in 250 opportunities. Who's better? Based on your estimation, they were equally as good. The problem is that they weren't. "A" was far more effective that Young in this case because he achieved his RBI in fewer opportunities. This is where context really comes into play.

    Same could be said about his doubles. 36 doubles looks impressive, but in 700 PAs? In Texas? Nice numbers, but not impressive. If you look at his 2009 numbers, you'll find that he was actually a much better hitter across the board. His counting stats may not have been as pretty, but he performed at a higher level in few PAs.

    Lastly, as for being jerked around, I completely disagree. Young was a poor defensive SS. They had Andrus an excellent defensive SS. The logical move is to install Andrus as the starter, and move Young to the vacant third base job where defense is less physically demanding. Then, we come to 2011. Beltre is one of three or four best 3rd baseman in the game. Young is one of the three of four worst. Who would you rather have playing there? To me, it's a no brainer. Beltre.

    The problem with your argument is that you make the assumption that Young is entitled to a position...that he's anything more than employee of the Rangers. He's not. His job is to do whatever his employers tell him to do. He's the same as you or I. To claim that he's being disrespected by the organization, while he's making $16M per season (that he's not worth by the way) is completely irrational. If anything, he should be thankful the Rangers were foolish enough to give him such a poorly considered contract, and are willing to give so much playing time to a player that's not only poor defensively, but average offensively.

  3. @Pags - Why does your brain hurt?