The list of adjectives to describe outfielder Chris Young’s 2014 season is endless: awful; disappointing; miserable; painful; rage-inducing and sad. Underperforming expectations is more likely the phrase Mets ownership would use, and yet somehow it’s far too merciful.
But negativity aside, what exactly is Young doing as a Met? The numbers expose some interesting trends and reveal a few surprising tendencies.
Sitting on a team well under .500, the outfielder’s below average waaWL (Win-Loss with average team) percentage is no surprise. Before Tuesday’s game against Atlanta, a team of average players surrounding Chris Young would win .491 percent of the time in 2014. That’s actually higher than his .485 rate in 2013, but lower than his .502 career percentage and .522 percentage during his All-Star performance in 2010.
And for good measure, he’s sporting a 0.0 WAR. That’s expected, except how his offensive stats are scored higher than his defensive stats. When Sandy Alderson signed Young for $7.25 million, fans were sold a centerfielder who can catch, run well and hit for pop, even if his average is a little low. Instead, his oWAR for a .203/.281/.350 slash is 0.3 compared to a –0.4 dWAR. Those are significantly lower than his 1.22 and .51 career numbers and surprising for a player whose seemingly only positive is his glove.
What is unexpected is how an underachieving, high-strikeout guy is actually striking out less in 2014. Yes, Young is whiffing in 18 percent of his plate appearances – and seeing 4.7 at-bats per strikeout – this season. His career numbers sit higher at 22.7 percent and 3.9 at-bats. Even the All-Star version of Chris Young whiffed more with 21.8 percent and 4 at-bats.
Clearly if he’s not striking out more than he must be hitting into double plays, right? Wrong. Young has hit into 6 percent of 47 chances this year, matching his 6 percent career rate in 760 opportunities. In 2010 he actually hit into double plays 8 percent of the time.
The numbers even prove he’s hitting the same amount of ground balls, fly balls and line drives as his career average. In 2014, one-third of his plate appearances yield ground balls, 47 percent fly balls and 19 percent line drives. Throughout his career, he hits groundballs 33 percent of the time, fly balls 48.5 percent of the time and line drives 18 percent of the time. And when he hits a groundball, his .250 batting average this season is in line with his .247 career average. However, his .152 batting average and .08 home runs per plate appearance on 2014 fly balls are way lower than his .205 career average and .1 home run per plate appearance. Reliant on fly balls for home runs, Young’s .567 batting average on line drives this season is well-below his .719 career average.
So what happens in different in-game scenarios? Young is clearly failing less at the plate in the first go-around against a starter. He slashes .227/.292/.318 in 48 plate appearances the first time, which drops to .214/.255/.405 in 47 plate appearances for numero dos. The next time up, his numbers plummet to.139/.225/.278 in 40 plate appearances. His career numbers sit at .239/.318/.424, .246/.317/.448 and .244/.324/.463, respectively.
Standing at the plate in 2014, Young is more likely to fall 0-1 in the count (21 plate appearances) than go up 1-0 (13 plate appearances). In his next at-bat, he’s more likely to even out the count (26 plate appearances) than fall into an 0-2 hole (11 plate appearances). But the outfielder frequently then finds himself 1-2 (36 plate appearances) and less often 2-1 (7 plate appearances). Behind a 1-2 count, Young has already struck out 19 of his 42 times – 45 percent – and slashed .111/.111/.250.
With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, Young is actually slashing.261/.320/.435 in 25 plate appearances. But in “late and close situations,” that drops to .205/.340/.333 in 48 plate appearances.
When Young steps to the plate with a runner on second and no outs, he’s apt to advance the runner 55 percent of the time this season compared to 42 percent throughout his career. But when he bats with a runner on third and less than 2 outs, that Met scores just 32 percent of the time in 2014 compared to 43 percent of runners throughout his career. Considering about half of his plate appearances end with the ball going up the middle about half the time and pulled into left field into 35 percent in both 2014 and his career, it’s more surprising runners can advance to third base and less surprising they don’t score from the hot corner.