Attacking Michael Young

Michael Young is a complex figure. He contains multitudes, you see. Most of those multitudes are foisted upon him by the Play The Game The Right Way set, eager to dub Young the ultimate teammate and consummate professional.

The baseball chattering class, of course, hates this. Any opportunity to rip and or disparage Young is taken. Overrated, overpaid, not really that good, whatever applies in a given context. The truth is, of course, in the middle somewhere. Michael Young is not a paragon of team-first virtue nor is he a replacement-level scrub masquerading as a clean-up hitter. He is a durable, league average baseball player conspicuously piling up counting stat achievements at a healthy clip.

By no fault of his own (I assume), Michael Young hits in the clean-up spot for the Texas Rangers every single night. As a generously powerless bat, this isn’t ideal for the Rangers run-creation. Young does get on base at a reasonable-enough rate thanks to his ability to dump singles into the opposite field like some bastardized version of Tony Gwynn.

Considering how often he comes to the plate and who hits behind him, it is in the Cardinals best interests to retire Michael Young each and every time he comes to the plate. Let’s figure out how they can do that.

As mentioned above, Michael Young has an annoying habit of flipping pitches down and away from him into right field for very cheap-looking singles. It’s part of his charm, really. While watching last night’s game, I found myself screaming “BUST HIM INSIDE” to no one in particular.

In the sober light of day, I realized that isn’t the best idea with a right hander on the mound. Young hits nearly all his home runs on pitches in on his hands, demonstrating just enough power and a favorable home ballpark for inside-out shots. The heat map below, courtesy ESPN Stats & Info, show Young’s 13 home runs from 2011.

The only pitches that weren’t right down the middle were in on the hands. It is worth noting that only two of Young’s 13 long balls came against left-handed starters. Tomorrow night’s starter for the St. Louis Cardinals — Mr. Jaime Garcia — just happens to throw with his left hand. Let’s look at Young’s hot and cold zones versus left-handers, just for fun.

Seems getting inside on Young from the port side is more effective than trying to jam him as a righty. In Game Two, Young went 1-3, striking out in their first meeting before Young singled on a sinker down and away.

Garcia stayed away from Young in Game One, only trying to get a slider onto his back foot once and never really venturing inside. Will the Cardinals stay with this pattern in Game Six? Again – Young isn’t the most dangerous bat but he certainly is trouble. As a weaker bat in a key line-up spot, the Cards are well-served to ensure he doesn’t beat them on his own. Keep the bases clear for the good hitters so Tony La Russa can order four consecutive intentional walks to bring up the pitcher’s spot. It’s a genius strategy, really.

Comments (7)

  1. If the Texas Rangers manage to win the World Series with Michael Young hitting cleanup and Mike Napoli batting 8th, I’ll truly have to tip my cap to Ron Washington.

  2. “By no fault of his own (I assume), Michael Young hits in the clean-up spot for the Texas Rangers every single night.”

    I don’t think it’s fair to assume that. He is a player with a history of publicly complaining when he doesn’t get his own way. Although he may not have asked directly for the cleanup spot, he’s created enough of a precedent for the Rangers to expect that he would complain if he doesn’t receive this kind of coddling.

  3. I’ll tip my cap to the fact that batting orders don’t really matter.

    • In the long term, no. But in the short term? I can’t say I agree. If you need to one won game tonight, wouldn’t you rather ensure Mike Napoli gives you more chances to win than Michael Young?

  4. I love your breakdowns, Drew- well reasoned, and thought out. Young is a favourite whipping boy of us stats nerds, but he has his uses.

    Does Napoli hit ninth tonight? Washington should do it just to mess with our heads. There would be a nerd riot on Twitter.

  5. just an interesting question, but what do you guys make of the fact that young is a really good hitter with runners on and in scoring position?

    like careerwise, his splits are:
    .290/.333/.433 with no runners on
    .322/.372/.476 with runners on

    i’m usually reluctant to believe the whole “clutch” hitting thing, but this is like 1500AB’s we’re talking about in either situation. it seems reasonable to assume that he does something to make him a much better hitter in those situations.

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