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Delmon Young and Relative Upgrades

Posted by Eric Seidman, Tue, April 30, 2013 07:00 AM | Comments: 25
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The Phillies’ signing of Delmon Young this offseason drew mixed reviews. Some believed his right-handed power was exactly what this lineup lacked and the modest one-year commitment carried little risk. Others felt that his poor baserunning, terrible fielding and lack of patience at the plate would hurt the Phillies far more than his potential power helped.

Player valuations are tricky because in addition to analyzing the player himself, the context in which he plays merits strong consideration. Young’s value to the Phillies is partially determined by his own productivity, but also based on the alternative outfield solutions and their performance.

The Phillies’ outfield has largely struggled this season. Even if Young’s numbers were mediocre or worse, that mediocrity could represent an improvement.  Phillies outfielders have hit a putrid .226/.290/.360 this season, with a below average fielding rating and -0.2 WAR. Only the Marlins’ outfield has produced less overall, and with Giancarlo Stanton heating up, they might not be far away from besting the Phils as well. [Of course Stanton had to get hurt and ruin my fantasy team this point].

Young is a better hitter than that slash line but it’s also unlikely that Phillies outfielders continue to struggle at that rate.

What we’re really interested in when looking at what Young can provide is whether or not he represents an improvement over what we expect Phillies right fielders to produce from this point forward. Under that guise it becomes more difficult to justify giving him the lion’s share of playing time.

For starters, Young is a flat-out brutal fielder. No matter the advanced fielding metric, Young has posted poor numbers, and is better utilized as a designated hitter. Young claims his defensive issues are a result of his discomfort in left field, which is the main reason the Phillies are plugging him into right field. It’s hard to imagine someone being terrible in one corner outfield post but league average or better in another. The positions just aren’t that different.

He rates as one of the worst on the basepaths as well, and while fielding and baserunning are often written off by fans — or at least not treated with as much reverence as the more tangible offensive production — they have a material impact on the value a player provides to his team.

Putting everything together, look at the following two players from 2010-12:

Player A: .278/.311/.435, … 4.1% BB/PA … .156 ISO … 31.7 AB/HR … -16.7 UZR … 0.8 WAR
Player B: .257/.317/.446 … 7.7% BB/PA … .189 ISO … 23.2 AB/HR … 0.8 UZR … 2.7 WAR

On WAR alone, Player B has the superior numbers, and it’s easy to see why. He has fielded his position much better, displayed more patience at the plate and connected for more power when the ball is put in play.

Player A = Delmon Young. Player B = John Mayberry.

It’s understandable why some fans have gotten excited about Young. He was a former #1 overall draft pick and has hit 20+ HR before. But his overall game isn’t impressive at all and the Phillies are already playing someone better at the same position.

While the Phillies outfield has struggled, Mayberry really hasn’t, posting a .324 OBP and .476 SLG this season. He is swinging and missing more often, but good things have happened when he connects, and he has a very solid 11% walk rate.

Over the rest of the season, the ZIPS projection system sees Mayberry hitting .247/.305/.412, but if Charlie Manuel continues to platoon him and Nix, the numbers in right field will improve. Since Nix is already guaranteed a major-league contract this season — and that was a reason to get rid of Nate Schierholtz — the benefit of Young producing at the same rate as NixBerry in just one roster spot is moot.

The various systems at Fangraphs see Young hitting around .274/.313/.436 with poor defense and baserunning. All told, it’s about a wash. Young could defy his projections and put up better than expected numbers as anything can happen over one season. But he doesn’t figure to produce any more than Mayberry or Nix, and it’s very possible he falls short of them if his defense really falters.

Young’s projection falls well short of Domonic Brown‘s over the rest of the way as well, for those thinking the Phils could reduce his playing time in lieu of Mayberry’s.

ZIPS sees Brown hitting .263/.331/.450 from this point forward but even his current slash line of .241/.312/.386 produces the same wOBA as Young’s 2012 season. There is no clear spot in the outfield where Young represents a legitimate improvement over what the Phillies are currently using. The outfield has struggled on the whole but much of that falls on Ben Revere.

Young is a new player, and in his best-case scenario would help the Phillies from a relative standpoint. New players are often exciting, especially when juxtaposed against those who haven’t necessarily lived up to their expectations. Fans also often develop opinions of new players based on the best-case scenario of production, assuming their team can fix his flaws. But new != good.

While the deal carried little risk from a years and dollars standpoint, it carries performance risk in the sense that both Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel likely view Young as an everyday player.

The Phillies’ outfield has struggled this season, but not in the areas Young figures to play, and not enough for his contributions to represent even a relative upgrade. Here’s to hoping that he tears the cover off the ball if pressed into an everyday role, but that the team understands overall value enough that he is given a fairly short leash as a regular.

Avatar of Eric Seidman

About Eric Seidman

Eric Seidman has written 64 articles on Phillies Nation.

Eric offers his unique analytical perspective to Phillies Nation and is a regular contributor on FanGraphs.com.

 
 
  • Posts: 5190 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Eric, this statement in the beginning of the posting-
    “Phillies outfielders have hit a putrid .226/.290/.360 this season”

    is a little bothersome to me because it is inclusive of the “putrid” year Ben Revere is having.

    I don’t know what the number would be if you removed him from it, but I bet it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it seems. One bad apple can spoil the whole bushel.

    I’d like to see Mayberry given the opportunity to play CF with Brown and Young when he returns.

    P.S. Stanton was placed on the 15 day DL, so the fish won’t be catching up anytime soon.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      It’s not quite fair to remove the weakest link without doing the same with the other outfields, but taking Eric’s numbers for the outfielders (which include Nix, Carrrera and Galvis), and backing out Revere, gives you .232/.306/.407 (.713 OPS, instead of .650). Better, but still 11th in the NL.

       
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      Methinks you may have commented before finishing the article as Revere’s influence was mentioned later on. Schmenk is right though — you can’t just remove Revere and compare to the rest of the league. You have to remove Revere AND remove the worst OF on all other teams if you want to re-rank it like that. Playing Mayberry in CF is certainly worth a shot though it’s doubtful that Revere will continue to struggle like this.

       
  • Posts: 2990 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    “Here’s to hoping that he tears the cover off the ball if pressed into an everyday role, but that the team understands overall value enough that he is given a fairly short leash as a regular.”

    EXACTLY !! …

    When he gets here he will play…but I have a feeling that his leash WILL be short. If he’s a total defensive liability and really doesn’t do that much at the plate to somehow balance that, then I think they will bench him or release him.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    Mayberry is performing a little better than expected, hitting righthanders more than he ever has in the past. Brown performed extremely well in the spring and may heat up again. The Phils didn’t really expect that kind of performance, which was one of the reasons for the Young contract.

    Amaro has said that Young has to be able to field. At first I think he meant that he only had to be physically able to do it. But more recent statements, as I read them, anyway, seem to be more along the lines of “he has to play defense well.”

    I think he’ll get a chance, but the front office says he’s not ready yet, and therefore, I think his leash is getting shorter and shorter. If he makes the cut, I believe it’ll be because he’ll prove that he is an upgrade, not because they’ve got him under contract.

     
  • Posts: 0 Rudy Canoza

    It’s too bad Yuniesky Betancourt couldn’t play OF…he now has 20 RBIs!

     
  • Posts: 0 CS

    Down right sick with hearing about Nate! Move On!

     
  • Posts: 105 pamikedc

    Avatar of pamikedc

    Side note- How awesome is that we have a PLAYER in Galvis that can just about play every single position. And he costs the team next to nothing and is very young.

    As long as his back is fine and he lays off the canseco juice- I am ecstatic that he’s a Philly guy.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phillies fan from Germany

    I am just hoping that Young will be released as soon as possible because I can’t see him adding anything compared to Brown and Mayberry/Nix RIGHT NOW. And Mayberry and Brown still have the potantial to get better. The same cannot be said about Young,

    For me Young will be alwas connected with the “I don’t care about walks, I care about production” statement.

     
    • Posts: 2990 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      Well…ok….but let’s see whether he can actually contribute enough before we start making statements such as “I am just hoping that Young will be released as soon as possible because…..”

      I mean if he actually produces enough offensively to be worth it and doesn’t completely embarrass himself in the outfield….isn’t that worth him being on the team???

       
      • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

        Avatar of Eric Seidman

        Exactly — he’s signed, so it’s worth a shot, as anything can happen in a week, a month, or even a season. But if he butchers several balls and is hitting .250/.275/.380 after a few weeks or so, something has to be done, regardless of whether it’s a small sample. The issue I have is what Manuel will do, because I can easily see him playing Young as the everyday RF regardless.

         
    • Posts: 62 Alex Lee

      Avatar of Alex Lee

      Easy dude… no way they should release him. It’s never a bad thing to have additional options. Another bat gives them more flexibility. Think of it this way, against dominant lefties – nights when Howard and/or Brown are sure to get a night off – Young enables them to put together a more potent lineup; Young in a corner with Mayberry sliding to first or center. Even if it means Young starts twice a week – spelling Howard, Brown and Mayberry – that improves the lineup for those 2 games when you consider the alternative (Carrera).

       
      • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

        Avatar of Eric Seidman

        Exactly – in moderation, Young will be fine, especially on a one-year deal at a nominal salary. The issue is if he is played as THE RF everyday no matter what, which I unfortunately feel may happen given the tendencies of this regime.

         
      • Posts: 62 Alex Lee

        Avatar of Alex Lee

        Ugh, I am worried about that too… but hopefully they figure out a useful role for him. And if Ben Revere’s OPS stays south of .500 (or .600 for that matter), I’d rather have too many OFs than not enough…

         
      • Posts: 2990 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        I was excited about Revere at the beginning of the season. I figured he woulod be one of those guys to get on base and, once on, be a complete menace and a pain in the ass to the pitcher and the defense. But so fat he hasn’t quite lived up to that hope so, yeah, I agree that other OF alternatives are a good thing.

         
    • Posts: 0 George

      Mayberry is 29. I doubt he has much “potential to get better.” In fact, Young, at 27, would actually have two years more than Mayberry in which to improve.

      Mayberry does draw walks and plays better defense, though.

       
  • Posts: 84 Tom

    Avatar of Tom

    You can look at projections all you want, there’s no guarantee that those numbers will come to fruition! I’m looking at the right here/right now and Young has to be an upgrade offensively at this point. JMJ has been given so many chances to be an everyday player and just hasn’t made it. Plus, the team needs a RH power threat behind Howard that they’ve sorely lacked since the departure of Werth and that will allow Ryan to see better pitches! If you are a major league manager with the game on the line in the late innings, do you pitch around Ryan knowing what the Phils have behind him now? Or does Delmon Young, especially if he can produce numbers like last year’s ALCS, give you pause?

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      Tom, I respect your take, but everything you just mentioned does not describe Delmon Young. Young has been a terrible major league player with awful fielding that negates any power he has. Plus, I showed with numbers how he literally isn’t an upgrade over either Mayberry or Brown, even if both of them hit the way they have so far, regardless of projections. He doesn’t walk at all and makes many many more outs than positive contributions at the plate. The perception of Delmon Young is vastly different than what he actually provides. And Ryan Howard won’t see any better pitches because it’s also pretty easy to get Ryan Howard out these days, so protection in this case is a red herring.

       
    • Posts: 62 Alex Lee

      Avatar of Alex Lee

      I’d much rather pitch around Howard if Delmon Young was behind him. The guy is an out machine.

       
  • Posts: 5190 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Salisbury reporting that Delmon Young has been activated and Carrera DFA’d

     
    • Posts: 2990 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      Ok…. so the leash is hopefully on and whoever is holding it better figure out what to do with it. Let the fun begin….

       
  • Posts: 0 Rudy Canoza

    Since Cliff Lee had issues with Shane’s defense last year, his relationship with Delmon Young should be downright fun to watch.

     
  • Posts: 0 Matt B

    D Young is a .284 lifetime average over 7 FULL seasons…JMJ has not even come close to that with a .252 lifetime average with only one full season where he hit .245. Delmon Young had 16 assists in 2007 with 7 errors over 155 games. The next year he had 11 assists with 8 errors. 2010 12 assists with 4 errors. I have been a Rays fan for a long time and this guy came up through the organization and he has an excellent arm and seemed comfortable in right field. I think the biggest complaint I have about Young is he has a bad attitude and can check out from time to time, but I think Chase Utley will whip this guy into shape. He is in a contract year and will ball and is a huge upgrade over JMJ. The comparison over a very small sample size that JMJ even compares to this guy is complete malarchey.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      I don’t like his off-the field reputation, but let’s forget about that for the moment.

      1) There is obviously more to hitting than batting average, and whatever comprehensive stat you use (OPS and OPS+, or the more accurate wOBA and wRC+) in 5 of his 6 seasons as a regular he was a below-average hitter.

      2) At the plate, there is not much difference between Mayberry and Young. They can both hit lefties, and aren’t very good against righties. They’ve also each had a streak of bout 50 great games — Young in 2010, Mayberry in 2011:

      Young:
      51 G in mid-2010: 1.048 OPS
      rest of career: .723 OPS

      Mayberry:
      51 G in late 2011: .983 OPS
      rest of career: .723 OPS

      3) Errors are a really ineffective way to judge fielding, especially for outfielders. There is very little debate that Young is not a good fielder. Mayberry is not a great fielder, or base runner, but he is better than Young at both.

       
  • Posts: 0 Constance

    iżyć się aż do pieczary. Ewentualnie gołosłowny – Constance
    - również co nowego gotowi doprowadzić.
    Przedzieranie się na krzyż nadbrzeżne łozy z owczym zewłokiem pod
    pachą stało trudniejsze niż przypuszczał. Na
    przypadek ści.

     
 
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