In a conference call yesterday, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said that the Mets might re-sign starting pitcher Chris Young “under the right circumstances.” Young, who is recovering from a torn capsule muscle, pitched well for the Amazins in limited action last season. So the question is, should the Mets re-sign Young?
Re-signing Young would be a gamble, but might be one the Mets are willing to take to add some depth to their starting rotation. In order for the Young signing to happen, he have to first prove that he could be healthy at some point early in the season. Second, he would likely have to accept a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, which, given his injury history, isn’t out of the question. But even if Young would sign that type of deal, is it worth it to bring him back?
In four starts last season, Young totaled 24 innings, allowing five earned runs on 12 hits and 11 walks while striking out 22. His final outing of the year came against the Phillies, where the tall righty tossed seven scoreless innings, surrendering two hits and three walks while punching out seven. The sample size is too small to form an accurate prediction of how young would pitch in 2012, but it does serve as a reminder of the type of pitcher Young used to be when healthy.
Over his career, Young is the owner of a 3.74 ERA (4.66 xFIP), 1.202 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and 2.21 K/BB. He is traditionally a fly ball pitcher, recording just 28.2% of outs on the ground. Given this fact and a career BABIP of .248, it’s possible that Young has simply benefited from playing the bulk of his career at pitcher friendly Petco Park in San Diego. This is somewhat the case.
At Petco Park::
265.1 IP, 2.85 ERA, 1.108 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 2.53 K/BB, 0.85 HR/9
And everywhere else:
510.1 IP, 4.20 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.05 K/BB, 1.2 HR/9
Young has performed better at Petco than elsewhere, but it’s probably fair to say that most pitchers would. The jump in ERA from Petco to everywhere else is a little high, but that is likely due in part to the increase in home runs allowed. Also, don’t forget that Young spent two years pitching in the American League for the Texas Rangers. Even with the new dimensions, Citi Field still projects as a pitcher’s park, so Young should still have success with his fly ball style. In terms of his BABIP, that figure has been low his entire career, perhaps indicating that Young is just tough to hit. If his BABIP dipped well below his career mark for a season or two, there would be reason to think some regression might occur.
A major concern with any pitcher coming off injury is decrease in velocity, but that probably won’t be the case with Young. Never a hard thrower, Young’s fastball used to average 89 mph in 2006; in ’09, the velocity dropped to 85.8 mph, and last year to 84.7 mph. Fortunately, Young has utilized his secondary pitches, a slider, changeup and curveball, over the course of his career an effective manner in order to generate outs. If Young comes back throwing around 85 mph, there isn’t reason to think he won’t be effective as long as he can maintain the movement on his pitches.
If the Mets can sign Young on the cheap with some proof that he could be ready early in the season, he would be worth it. The Mets were fortunate last season in that their starting rotation was intact for almost the entire season (not including Johan Santana since he began the year on the disabled list). Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee all made at least 30 starts, while Jon Niese made 27 before being shutdown in late August. Given the team’s injury history as of late, the Mets probably won’t be this lucky again, so having some insurance in the form of an established, Major League starter would be beneficial.