Valuing Michael Young’s Season
Michael Young leads all Phillies hitters with a .360 weighted on-base average, a few ticks ahead of Chase Utley as we prepare for the series finale in San Francisco this afternoon. Young’s triple-slash line reads .330/.398/.426, certainly much better than most of us anticipated going into the season. The 36-year-old finished 2012 with a .297 wOBA and was one of the worst overall players in baseball, so his rebound is a welcome sight.
Young hit in 14 consecutive games between April 9-23, including the final 12 games of the streak including exactly one hit and that one hit being a single. He had a .901 OPS across the streak, which is actually on the lower end as far as hitting streaks of 14 games or longer go. 30 of his 38 hits this year (79%) have been singles, which is why the slugging percentage is so low; furthermore, his .096 isolated power is the 14th-lowest in the National League and the second-lowest among all NL third basemen, ahead of only Placido Polanco.
Another remarkable aspect of Young’s season thus far is his unconscionable rate of grounding into double plays. He leads the Majors with 10 GIDP’s, and that is in 128 PA overall, and 24 plate appearances with a runner on first base and less than two outs. Double plays aren’t accounted for in any aggregate offensive stats like OPS or wOBA, but using RE24, we can see the impact of all ten double plays. A quick overview of RE24:
RE24 is the difference in run expectancy (RE) between the start of the play and the end of the play. That difference is then credited/debited to the batter and the pitcher.
Young’s double plays:
By comparison, the three singles Young hit on April 27 against the Mets had RE24 values between 0.1 and 0.4. The average RE24 of his double plays is -0.7. Young’s overall RE24 on the season is -2.07, meaning that aside from the ten double plays, he has been +5.25.
Just as Young isn’t likely to continue grounding into double plays at his current rate, he isn’t likely to continue getting hits at his current rate, either. His batting average on balls in play is .394, 60 points higher than his career average. With 95 balls put in play, his current BABIP represents a 5-6 hit surplus over his career average. Five fewer hits would lower his batting average from .330 to .287. Last season, only five hitters across baseball had a BABIP in excess of .370: Dexter Fowler (.390), Torii Hunter (.389), Mike Trout (.383), Andrew McCutchen (.375), and Austin Jackson (.371). It isn’t as if Young frequently makes good contact with the baseball. Via ESPN Stats & Info, of the 95 balls Young has put in play, only 25 of them (26.3%) have been considered “well-hit”. The league average is 23.1 percent. Though known for consistently making contact, Young is not in the upper 90 percent of hitters when it comes to BABIP.
When you factor in his poor defense and below-average base running, along with his expected regression, Young isn’t likely to be anything better than below average relative to his position going forward. To be fair, however, Young looks much better in comparison to players that have manned third base for the Phillies since the end of the Scott Rolen era.