The crazy and unlikely success of Chris Young

I am glad that Chris Young is back in the rotation for the Mets; however, I am not quite sure exactly why. Obviously, he is an upgrade on Chris Schwinden. But if you go down and list his pros and cons, there are an awful lot of things to be concerned about with Young.

He’s injury prone, his fastball doesn’t light up the radar guns, he gives up a ton of fly balls, he has unsustainable walk and home runs rates and his strikeouts have fallen off a cliff.

But in brief parts of two seasons with the Mets, Young has a 2.38 ERA and a 1.248 WHIP. Of course we are dealing with tiny sample sizes; yet, it is still interesting how different his 2011 and 2012 seasons have been so far. So, in addition to the concerns listed above, we’re still not sure exactly what to expect when Young takes the mound. Here are his numbers with the Mets:

  IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP xFIP
2011 24.0 8.25 4.13 1.13 1.88 3.88 4.73
2012 17.2 4.08 2.55 0.00 3.06 2.99 5.92
Total 41.2 6.55 3.46 0.65 2.38 3.46  

In 2011, he succeeded thanks to a high strikeout rate, a low BABIP (.155) and an ultra-high strand rate (96.0%). In 2012, he’s succeeding thanks to a low walk rate and the fact that he has yet to allow a home run.

A normal home run rate is to give up a homer for every 10 fly balls. Batters have hit 36 fly balls this year versus Young and have yet to hit one over the fence. Young appears to have an ability to exceed a normal HR rate. Lifetime, his HR/FB rate is 7.8%. Given that rate and his 2012 fly balls allowed, Young should have given up three homers so far (2.808) this year.

Normally, we like to look at xFIP, which normalizes a pitcher’s home run rate. But for a pitcher like Young, with a history of posting better than average HR/FB rates, we are likely better off looking at FIP, which just uses his actual HR rate. While his xFIP is nearly three full runs worse than his ERA, Young’s FIP is actually slightly better.

Young is likely to regress in both HR allowed and BB surrendered. But hopefully he will compensate by having a reduced BABIP. His current mark in the category (.353) is 101 point higher than his lifetime .252 mark.

Still, I can’t help but think that Young will need to improve on his strikeout rate going forward. There are seven qualified pitchers on the FanGraphs leaderboards with a K/9 under 5.0 for the season. They are a combined 30-38 with a 4.54 ERA in 549.2 IP.

That’s good production for a fifth starter, yet considerably worse than what Young has given the Mets in his brief time. Would Mets fans be happy if Young stabilized at those numbers?

It’s impossible to answer that question without knowing how many innings Young ends up throwing in 2012. It seems like the answer is a lot different if Young finished with a 4.54 ERA in 50 IP or 150 IP. So, how likely is Young to finish with 100+ innings this year?

Young has not exceeded 100 IP since 2008, when he had 102.2 innings. If you had to wager, smart money would be on him falling short of 100 IP. Knowing that, we probably would not be happy if he regressed to a 4.54 ERA.

So, Mets fans have to pull for Young, hope he stays healthy and that he can defy the odds of those with poor strikeout rates. We have to hope he can continue to post better than normal walk rates and that he continues to be ultra-stingy with his gopher balls.

It seems crazy and unlikely but in a year where Johan Santana broke the team’s no-hitter drought and R.A. Dickey has evolved into the best pitcher in baseball – why can’t Young do something unheard of, too?

3 comments for “The crazy and unlikely success of Chris Young

  1. Chris F
    July 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    After today’s gut wrenching loss to the Phillies, surrendering a small, but solid lead nevertheless, I couldnt help but think more about CYs starts. In our chat today, I mentioned he needed to be pulled after 6, and not even be allowed to begin the 7th. Im sure it was partly a knee jerk, but then in recollect, I think I stand by that.

    After the game I caught the ESPN Mets Blog and came across this interesting stat that confirms my fears:

    Opponents are now hitting .176 against Young in their first plate appearance of a game against him, .281 in the second PA and .368 the third time through the order.

    So as we saw today, he is effective early, then as opponent timing improves and (as I believe) CY tires and loses control, then things switch rapidly. Im happy with his presence in slot 5, but realistically he cannot be allowed to start the 7th. Who replaces him I cant say.

    • July 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      Maybe that should be Miguel Batista’s role – Chris Young caddy. He comes on and finishes up what Young leaves behind.

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