The Curious Case of Chris Young

Chris Young’s career was born under unusual circumstances.

And so begins the Curious Case of Chris Young. This is the story of a Pitcher whose career was born in his prime and aged backwards. A man, like any of us, unable to stop time. We follow his story from the sunny locals of San Diego to the shady borough of Queens. Written by MDS, “The Curious Case of Chris Young” is a time traveler’s tale of the batters he struck out and walked, the injuries he sustained and never overcame, the life on a 91 mph rising Fastball and the death of an arm.

Alright, let’s just get this out of the way. This is not going to benefit anyone outside that one NL-Only manager who thinks he has a sleeper in Chris Young. The beat up, injury prone Mets Pitcher is not included in my Top 100 SP Rankings. Hell, I didn’t even calculate a projection for him. He’s not worth the time. I just want to point out a few funny things about Chris Young.

Injury Rundown
2005 DTD (arm fatigue)
2006 DTD (upper back strain), DTD (stress reaction in foot)
2007 15-day DL (oblique strain), DTD (lower back tightness)
2008 60-day DL (facial fractures), 15-day DL (forearm strain), DTD (elbow stiffness)
2009 60-day DL (shoulder surgery), DTD (elbow tendinitis)
2010 60-day DL (shoulder strain)

Back-to-back-to-back trips to the 60-day DL. I wonder if he gets frequent flyer miles for that. Let’s do the body part damage assessment courtesy of the Baseball Injury Tool: elbow (2), shoulder (2) and one to the trunk, face, forearm, arm, hand, foot, upper back and lower back. Remember the Operation board game? I’d love to see a version of the Chris Young version of that. “My turn! Remove Derrek Lee’s finger nail from Young’s face for $100″. All the injuries are taken a toll on Young’s body/arm. The evidence is clear as day.

The Not-So-FastBall
91.2 mph 2004
89.9 mph 2005
89.0 mph 2006
88.7 mph 2007
87.2 mph 2008
85.8 mph 2009
84.7 mph 2010

Of all the MLB Pitchers who managed to reach Chris Young’s milestone benchmark of 20 Innings Pitched in 2010, only Tim Wakefield, Jamie Moyer, Charlie Haeger, R.A. Dickey, Doug Davis, Livan Hernandez, Aaron Laffey and Justin Duchscherer threw slower Fastballs. In other words, three knuckleballers and a handful of scrubs. Young’s Slider is also slowing down.

From a King’s Castle to White Castle
81.0 mph 2005
79.8 mph 2006
79.4 mph 2007
78.2 mph 2008
76.8 mph 2009
75.1 mph 2010

Only Dallas Braden offered a cheaper Slider in 2010. Chris Young started out running and is coming to a crawl. I’m sure he’ll be fine in Queens, I hear they have plenty of leftover knee pads from the Mike Piazza days. The declining Velocity isn’t the only issue at hand. We also have some Control problems. 

Walking Off the Injuries
2.48 BB/9 2004
2.46 BB/9 2005
3.46 BB/9 2006
3.75 BB/9 2007
4.22 BB/9 2008
4.74 BB/9 2009
4.95 BB/9 2010

How can a Pitcher survive outside of Petco with a sub-85 mph Fastball and a BB/9 pushing five per nine? I don’t think the answer can be found in his below-average strikeout rate. The strikeouts may be the only part of Chris Young’s career that resembles the normal path that one would expect. Young’s K/9 didn’t peak right away, but the gunslinger isn’t mowing down batters like he used to.

The Zero-K Coral
6.69 K/9 2004
7.49 K/9 2005
8.23 K/9 2006
8.69 K/9 2007
8.18 K/9 2008
5.92 K/9 2009
6.75 K/9 2010

Chris Young peaked as a rookie. It’s a very strange situation. I think in 2011 he will be pitching like a 5th grader. At least Mets fans have seen worse at Citi Field, Baba Booey has softened the fall for Young. I don’t think Moneyball is the right project for Brad Pitt if he wants to enter the world of Major League Baseball. I think an adaptation of Benjamin Button would have been much better.

For all the Young bashing going on here. We should recognize (and I should be the one to do so since I’m championing the mdsFIP ERA forecasting system) that no one in baseball can limit Base Hits like Chris Young. His .251 career BABIP is the lowest of all Pitchers since the stat has been tracked at Fangraphs (min. 200 IP). It’s no surprise (to me) that his ERA is 42 points lower than his FIP and 89 points lower than his xFIP. 

All stats provided by Fangraphs