Right now the only starting pitcher not on the New York Mets’ holiday wish list is Cliff Lee. Chris Young is not only on the list, but he for a short while this weekend, rumors had him already a member of the team.
Facts have since prevailed and the righty remains one many hurlers still looking for a home, although both parties are definitely talking. The question remains, should they be?
Young turns 32 in May and will be entering his seventh season in major league baseball. During those years he’s picked up a 48-34 career record with a 3.80 ERA, 1.209 WHIP and 2.21:1 strikeout:walk ratio. Those are certainly appealing numbers, especially for someone who would only be asked to plug up the back of the rotation, but of course there is more to the story.
Injuries have recently plagued the big right hander – he stands at 6’10” and turned down a NBA contract. Entering the big leagues with Texas back in 2004. Not surprisingly he only threw 36.1 innings that year; tossing at least 164 innings for the next three years. He spent some time on the DL in 2008 with various injuries, including catching an Albert Pujols line drive with his face.
His right shoulder blew up that last two seasons. Young pitched to a 4-6 record through 76 innings in 2009 when shoulder inflammation landed him on the DL in mid June. He had arthroscopic surgery to repair tears in August. The next season started promising, including six shutout innings in his second start. Shoulder strain, however, sidelined him for all but five games and 20 innings in 2010. He did finish with a sub-1.00 ERA.
Young’s marketability, obviously, relies on the health of his right shoulder. There’s been very little information publicly available, but the effects are obvious.
Despite his large size, Young is actually a finesse pitcher in a power pitcher’s body. He relies on a deceptive delivery, changing speeds and movement to get hitters out, rather than raw power. In fact, his fastball has never been all that fast. In his prime it topped out in the low 90s, tending to live a few clicks below that. His curveball sits in the high 60s while his slider typically lives in the mid 70s, both with some break. The fourth pitch in his repertoire is a straight change up that’s also thrown in the mid 70s.
His fastball – the staple of most pitchers – was fast enough and had plenty of movement to succeed as a middle of the rotation pitcher with Texas and San Diego. But ever since his shoulder started aching, reports have flooded in that it tops out in the mid 80s and has less movement.
Young has also shown much less control. While he was able to strikeout two batters per every walk in his younger years, that ratio plummeted in 2009 and 2010 to 1.25 and 1.36, respectively.
Young is also a notorious fly ball pitcher. Statistically speaking, Young gets ground balls less than a third of the time. He tends to give up at least one home run per nine innings, although somewhat surprisingly, the number of home runs he’s allowed has not spiked during his recent stretch of injuries. According to ESPN, Petco Park is the fifth best pitcher’s park; Citi Field ranks sixth.
The righty obviously hasn’t been the same pitcher since his 2004-2007 days, and with two years of injuries to the same shoulder, there has to be serious concern he ever will be. Young earned a combined $13.6 million in the last three years and should not expect to sniff those figures again unless his shoulder heals. At least he’s not solely reliant on hard heat and may be able to find himself again.
If, and that’s a huge if, his shoulder is strong enough to last a full season, Young could be worth a gamble on one of those one year, incentive-laden deals the Mets are expected to hand out this off-season.