Rising Apple’s Year In Review series continues today with a look at pitcher Chris Young. For the thirty three year old right-hand hurler, the 2012 regular season was nothing short of a personal success.
After making seven starts as a rookie in 2004 with the Texas Rangers, Chris Young strung together three consecutive seasons with at least thirty starts. After the 2007 regular season however, it is suffice to say he has had difficulty staying healthy. He made two trips to the disabled list during the 2008 season. In 2009 he suffered a torn labrum. After one April start in 2010, his season was lost, except for three appearances in late September. Upon signing with the Mets in 2011, he made four early season starts before his campaign was shut down yet again. Young’s familiarity with injury culminated with surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching arm. Recovery and rehab delayed the start of his 2012 season until June 5th. But once activated, he completed the season.
Chris Young’s twenty starts in 2012 were his most since starting thirty games during the 2007 season. Appreciating a healthy return, the Mets hurler self admittedly enjoyed a small measure of accomplishment.
HOW CHRIS YOUNG DID ON THE MOUND: I’d like to preface this portion of Young’s review by saying, it wasn’t so much what he did on the mound, but when he did it. Chris Young’s activation from the disabled list helped the Mets like a mid-season acquisition is designed to do. Mike Pelfrey was already lost for the season, Dillon Gee was on his way towards joining Pelfrey, and Johan Santana would eventually be shelved as well. So at a minimum, Chris Young’s return to the mound was timely and helpful.
Now the stats: In twenty starts, Chris Young totalled 115 innings pitched. He won four games and lost nine. July was especially tough on Young as he posted an 0-4 record for the month. He finished the season with a 4.15 earned run average which falls within his career ranges. He struck out eighty batters this season which averages to 6.3 per nine innings.
The season in which Chris Young tore his labrum (2009), he posted his career high 3.447 WHiP. This past season he posted his second highest WHiP with a 1.348 mark. Control is not an issue with Chris Young. He walked thirty eight batters, for a 2.8 per nine inning average. Chris’s problem lies with allowing more hits (119/115) than innings pitched. His average allowance works out to 9.3 hits per nine innings.
He pitched six innings or better in twelve of his twenty starts. He failed to pitch at least five full innings four times. Depending how you judge a Quality Start (which I personally detest, as stats go), Chris Young’s body of work speaks well, regardless what I think. In eight of his twenty starts, he pitched six or seven innings, and allowed two runs or less. In another three starts of six plus innings, he allowed three runs. Twelve quality starts out of twenty is a nice way to return from arm surgery.
AREAS TO IMPROVE UPON: Hey.., for the first two times through a line-up, Chris Young was dynamite. Letting him face a line-up for a third time however was usually detrimental to Mets wins. The Mets were 6-14 in games Chris Young pitched. In those twenty starts the Mets averaged 3.45 runs per game. In three of those games, the Mets scored eleven, nine, and nine runs. Take those three games away, and the Mets scored an average of 2.35 runs in seventeen other games Chris Young pitched. Then consider that in twenty games, Young surrendered sixteen home runs. It seemed as if a preponderance of those home runs came in the sixth inning, or during the third time through the line-up, or which ever came first. Otherwise, he was master of the four and five inning shutout.
Coming off arm surgery as he has, and posting consistently good five inning efforts, one would think he needs to improve upon his strength and conditioning. On a sarcastic note, if anything really needs improvement, it would be the offense behind him.
I have to be honest with you – pitchers with fastballs that top out in the mid-eighties (mph) make me queasy. I can’t grasp the functional concept of a change-up in that scenario. And this is perhaps precisely why Chris Young gets tagged in the sixth inning of games or during the third time through the line-up. To be fair, he is crafty, and relies on pin-point accuracy. Few pitchers target every cubic inch of the strike zone the way he does. With him, his fastball and change-up repertoire get multiplied by location. I also happen to like the way he climbs the ladder. Ultimately however, due to lack of power, he becomes too easy to figure out. He does a great job of pitching himself out of trouble the second time through a line-up. But it’s a trap. We know what follows next.
He used to throw his curve ball a lot more than he did this past season. But then, you would have to refer back to the 2009 season to really qualify that. Moving forward, I believe he should utilize his curve ball more often.
PROJECTED ROLE IN 2013 AND CONTRACT STATUS: My crystal ball is still cloudy on this one. Finishing the season in a somewhat effective manner was no doubt a huge confidence builder. As a “healthy” veteran, Chris Young’s interests lie in being a starting pitcher. Depending how some of the young Mets pitching prospects perform in Spring Training next year, the starting rotation could get a little crowded.
Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey, and Dillon Gee are all expected back next season. But look no further than to what happened to the starting rotation this season. Then the Mets must still consider the status of Matt Harvey, and the progression of Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, and Zach Wheeler.
Of course there is the old saying – You can never have enough starting pitching. Chris Young, Sandy Alderson, and Paul DePodesta all have ties that go back to San Diego. Perhaps they still share a tie that binds. Sandy Alderson stuck with Chris Young through injury. For both parties, maybe there is a sense of loyalty at work here.
Chris Young signed a one year minor league deal back in Spring. That pact will now expire making Chris Young a free agent this winter. While Chris Young is not a pitcher that will command top dollar on the open market, coming off this season, his price may be too high for the Mets. And considering the Mets real needs lie elsewhere, the Mets might be better served letting him walk.
As a thirty three year old coming off injury, this may be Chris Young’s last crack at a handsome contract. Without a home town discount, I do not foresee the Mets matching any offers for Chris Young’s services. If he can be signed cheaply to another one year deal, better for the Mets.