PSA: Michael Young Isn’t Fast

Judging by the aggression with which third base coach Ryne Sandberg instructs third baseman Michael Young to run the bases, one would think that Young possesses a modicum of agility. Not true, sadly. 2011 was the last season in which Young stole more than two bases and he’s overall been a below-average base runner every year dating back to 2007, according to FanGraphs. Over the last week, though, Sandberg has been sending Young home with reckless abandon on outfield hits, but Young has been safe exactly zero times out of three attempts.

Below are all three depressing attempts.

June 9 @ Milwaukee

The Situation: Top of the 1st, tied 0-0, runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out.

It’s the first inning. No need to be greedy early, especially when Domonic Brown would be coming to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. The win expectancy for the initial base-state and the possible ensuing base-states, via The Book (from the Phillies’ point of view):

  • Initial: 54%
  • Bases loaded, 1 out: 59.5%
  • Result (runners on 1st and 3rd, 2 out): 50%

My assumption is Sandberg had read a couple of scouting reports on right fielder Norichika Aoki. He has never been lauded for having anything better than an average arm. Jaymes Langrehr from fellow Sweet Spot Brewers blog Disciples of Uecker called his arm “less than ideal” for a right fielder. When the Brewers won the rights to Aoki in December 2011, Mike Axisa of MLB Trade Rumors felt Aoki’s arm was so weak that he would be limited to left field.

However, Sandberg should have considered that Howard hit the ball well, which means it gets to Aoki quickly. Secondly, Aoki was charging in on the ball, therefore able to get momentum behind his throw.

June 13 @ Minnesota

The Situation: Top of the 6th, Phillies ahead 1-0, runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 out.

In a vacuum, I don’t hate Sandberg’s aggression here. The Phillies were squandering opportunities left and right, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to get a crucial insurance run. Here’s a look at the win expectancy:

  • Initial: 64%
  • Bases loaded, 2 out: 67%
  • Inning over (bottom 6th, 0 out): 59%

Here’s what makes the decision to send Young poor: first, Young is slow as heck. Second, right fielder Ryan Doumit is a catcher by trade, so his arm is pretty good. Third, as above, Howard makes solid contact which means the ball gets to Doumit quickly. Fourth, Doumit is able to charge the ball, getting his momentum behind the throw.

June 15 @ Colorado

The Situation: Top of the 1st, Phillies ahead 1-0, runner on 1st, 1 out.

This is just awful. Gonzalez, by all accounts, has a terrific arm and Sandberg had already been burned sending Young twice. Holding Young at third would’ve allowed Domonic Brown to come to the plate with a runner on third base and less than two outs, meaning Young scores on most fly balls to the outfield. The win expectancy

  • Initial: 59%
  • Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out: 67%
  • Runner on 2nd, 2 out: 57%

Unlike the previous two plays, Young has to travel 270 feet to score rather than 180. Unless Young’s cardio is incredible, he (like most runners) will get tired towards the end of his run. If it’s Ben Revere running, the aggression isn’t entirely unwarranted, but Young is no Revere. This is really just a situation where a simple risk/reward calculation and knowledge of Gonzalez’s scouting reports makes this a no-brainer hold for Sandberg.

I asked Eric Longenhagen to provide a systematic scouting perspective. Here’s what he had to say:


Michael Young is an average runner. At least that’s what the times I’ve always had on him from home to first would tell you. He routinely times right around 4.3 seconds flat, an even 50 on the 20-80 scouting scale for right handed hitters (though in the research I’ve done, average for righties is actually 4.35 seconds, but I digress). One thing I’ve noticed in timing every and all things baseball is that some hitters have a natural jail break in their swings, follow throughs that start their momentum toward first base while other hitters are pulled away from it. These hitters (like Rickie Weeks and yes, Michael Young) tend to put up times that indicate they are better runners than they actually are. This is where the scout’s eye has to come into play. Here are the times from the three outs Young made at home plate recently (In the order you sent them to me, Bill)


Young traveled three bases in that first time in just about half a second faster than Ryan Howard traveled three bases on the triple he hit on June 6th (I timed it at 12.18 seconds). That’s about .17 seconds faster per base. That’s a grade and a half faster than Howard, who is easily just a 20 runner. Based on that we can estimate Young is actually about a 35 runner underway, well below average. Assuming, of course, that Young ran hard the entire way. Which we should. Because he’s Michael Young, and Michael Young ALWAYS runs hard.

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  1. Frank

    June 17, 2013 07:45 AM

    That throw by Cargo was insane.

  2. LTG

    June 17, 2013 08:29 AM

    Is it just me or does CarGo take a look at the play developing, wind up, and then throw the ball? Apparently, he was confident that he could throw MY out at the plate without hurrying.

  3. AGH

    June 17, 2013 09:05 AM

    I really thought we couldn’t do worse than Samuel as the Third Base coach. Turns out I was right. Unfortunately, Sandberg is just as bad.

  4. Richard

    June 17, 2013 09:44 AM

    Thank you. I hated these sends. The Doumit one was the one I was most vocal about hating, and got all kinds of responses saying it was an automatic send because of the situation blah blah blah to which I can only say no. Young is just getting to third when the ball is in the fielder’s hands, and he is not fast.

  5. Evan

    June 17, 2013 10:44 AM

    @LTG…haha, you beat me too it. I’m surprised he didn’t go over to the stands, take a sip of Coke from a fan and then throw out M. Young. Way to easy.

  6. Fish Fry

    June 17, 2013 10:59 AM

    Hey, on the bright side, we still are holding down 3rd place and two games behind the Nats and 8.5 behind Atlanta. RAJ just has to work his deadline magic, trade Pettibone for Josh Hamilton and were right back in it. (dripping with sarcasm).

    What a painful week.

  7. Pencilfish

    June 17, 2013 11:21 AM

    The last two were not even close. If
    this is a preview of Sandberg’s game calling philosophy, it is easier to understand why he hasn’t become a ML manager yet. If he’s going to succeed Charlie at the helm, then I am concerned.

  8. Phillie697

    June 17, 2013 12:54 PM


    RAJ has deadline magic? Since when? I don’t think Ed Wade has anything that can help us these days.

  9. #PhilliesTalk

    June 17, 2013 01:54 PM

    And the Charlie haters want Sandberg to be the manager.


  10. Fish Fry

    June 17, 2013 02:04 PM

    I was being sarcastic, the only magic I hope to see is when I go to Cirque de Soleil. Or maybe on August 1st when our starting eight are:

    Brown, Revere, Castro, Asche, Galvis, Hernandez, Ruf and Rupp. Now that’s a lineup I’d pay to see (of course, only at the PIGS ticket price).

  11. hk

    June 17, 2013 02:13 PM


    I think the Charlie haters want anyone other than Charlie to be the manager. If Sandberg becomes the manager, it will be because the GM wants him to replace Charlie.

  12. hk

    June 17, 2013 02:14 PM


    The Charlie haters want anyone other than Charlie to be the manager. If Sandberg becomes the manager, it will be because the GM wants it to be so.

  13. #PhilliesTalk

    June 17, 2013 02:54 PM

    This teams problems have nothing to do with Amaro and his two well paid assistants ED WADE and PAT GILLICK.

    The Phillies problems begin and end with JOHN S. MIDDLETON and his extremely well compensated Wharton Business School bloodsucker David Montgomery.

  14. 32isnotnuts

    June 17, 2013 03:58 PM

    Young’s speed is Young’s speed, can’t argue with a stop watch.

    But the way you lay it out is kind of biased, in that it speaks to 3 situations in which there was an actual play at the plate….lot’s of things have to go right (defensively) for that to even happen. Seems U R ignoring all the instances when a runner scores being aggressive, due to bobbles, wildly bad throws, throws to the wrong bag, fielder holding the ball, etc.

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