28 February 2009

Dr Jekyll & Mr Young

Arguments have been levied for some time, in favor of moving Chris Young below the top third of manager Bob Melvin's batting order. First and foremost, critics say, Young's career .306 OBP, presents a counterproductive bottleneck just before (and among) the team's top hitters. Young also strikes out a great deal and notably struggles against right handed pitching (.232/.290/ .438), which is to say, most of the time.

While surfing Bill James Online, I came upon a different split that opened my eyes: Batting Performance By Quality of Opposing Pitcher - "quality" roughly defined in terms of pitchers' ERA. We would expect most hitters to fare better against lesser pitchers, and this is the case. But it seems particularly true with Chris Young:

Pitchers Below 4.25 ERA

AB........ H = BA

598...... 113=.189

Pitchers Above 4.25 ERA

AB.......H = BA

596.... 177=.297

The 4.25 ERA presents a useful practical division, insofar as the NL lg average ERA in 2008 was 4.30 -and 4.43 the previous year. So, Young hits just .189 (with OPS well below .600) against essentially the top half of major league pitchers. Not only staff aces and dominant closers - the top 45% or so of all pitchers.

Let's look at some other Diamondback hitters for context. Mark Reynolds set the All Time Seasonal Strikout record in 2008, and often looks overmatched against quality pitchers. Here's his 2007-2008 split:

Pitchers Below 4.25 ERA>>>.216
" " Above 4.25 ERA>>>.302

Similar to Young, but note that Reynolds first BA is still 25 points higher than CY and that no one is clamoring for Mark to bat in the top half of the order. The fact he is often overmatched appears widely recognized, and accounted for, in his positioning low in the order.

Here's Stephen Drew's split:

Pitchers Below 4.25 ERA>>>.249
" " Above 4.25 ERA>>>.283

Much smaller difference than either Young and Reynolds.

And Conor Jackson, the team's most reliable hitter:

Below 4.25 ERA>>>> .280
Above 4.25 ERA>>>>.307

Chad Tracy, Juston Upton and Eric Byrnes all hit better than Chris Young against the under 4.25 ERA set. Young isnt resigned to hit .189 the rest of his life, but that stat represents 598 ABs, suggesting Chris may be more of a 'cripple' hitter, terrorizing the bottom half of mistake-prone hurlers, while conversely overmatched - to an unusual degree - against the top half . The Houston native is trying to take the ball to right this spring, shortening up with two strikes; however CY has never hit higher than .277 after high school - not even in the low minors. Which raises the question whether, at 25, he can reasonably transform himself into an average (let alone "high") OBP player.

If not, perhaps Bob Melvin can utilize this information to enhance team production, most notably by replacing Young at the top of the lineup against stronger arms, with players (Upton, Byrnes, Tracy) who have historically fared better facing top competition.

- jb


Matt said...

Way to start it off, Jamaal!


For nine months, I've privately sought out a writer to help out here, and have vetted several to that end. This concludes a laborious, and sometimes agonizing, process.

I'm pleased to announce that Jamaal B. is the first ever authorized co-contributor in the sometimes tumultuous tenure of this page.

Please join me in welcoming Jamaal to the Diamondhacks family.

Russell said...

I was reading that thinking "Hey, Matt's writing better than ever." now I know why. Welcome Jamaal, i hope you are being paid the industry standard.

PAUL said...

Their offense is strangely constructed. I was trying to come up with a viable batting order, but can't. They may as well just pick the names out of a hat.

jamaal said...

Thanks for the welcome Matt

As well to Russell. Statistical analysis is a life passion and will be my focus here.

I will not contend with a Jew


Matt said...


No one on this blog is to be frozen out due to religion, ethnicity, etc.


Sorry about the above. As for the lineup, it's true it lacks positional prototypes (ie leadoff, cleanup), but I wouldnt want someone with a .300 OBP batting second.

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