03 July 2012
I’m not sure any player shows the stark contrast between the traditional approach to baseball statistics and the sabermetric approach better than Delmon Young.
The traditional numbers on Young look solid. His career numbers (per 162 games) give him a .286 batting average, 16 home runs, and 89 runs batted in. Those numbers in isolation suggest an above average hitter with middle of the order potential.
The sabermetric approach, however, paints a different picture. His career 96 wRC+ tells us that his total value as a batter is actually 4% worse than league average.Delmon’s season to date has been a disappointment by any standard, but he has been recording more hits lately. In fact, in his last 29 games played he’s knocked out 35 hits. But, unfortunately, his 121 plate appearances during this stretch have been about as Delmon Young as any stretch could be.
The .297 batting average looks excellent, but just one walked mixed in means his OBP is still a paltry .298. So even though Delmon Young has “been hot”, he’s still managed to make an out in over 70% of his plate appearances.
I don’t think anyone’s going to deny Young’s contact skills. His career strikeout rate is actually a hair better than average, and his batting averages are normally pretty good. The big problem, though, is that his complete lack of a hitting approach saps him of much of the potential in his offensive game (Brennan Boesch has a similar problem). He’s a good hitter, sure, but at the same time he’s a pretty bad batter.
Instead of working the count and forcing the pitcher to throw a quality pitch inside the zone, Young (and Boesch) prefer to attack right out of the gate. Swinging early in the count isn’t bad if you get the pitch you’re looking for, but it leads to unnecessary outs if you start swinging at balls out of the zone.
I still believe that Delmon could become a very valuable hitter for the Tigers (or another team down the road), but he needs a complete change in approach to become that player. But that type of a change is unlikely as long as the traditional baseball world continues to place a premium on batting average (and RBI, but that’s a different post).
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.