Thursday, May 13, 2010

Delmon Young Has Arrived

A lot of people have written Delmon Young off. And I admit that between his weight, his attitude, his defense, his propensity to swing freely at anything that was heaved toward home plate, there wasn't a lot to like there. But there were concrete signs of improvement from the middle of the summer through the offseason which led me to conclude this winter that expectations for Young should be as high as ever this year.

And he has delivered.

After Wednesday's game with the White Sox in which Young went 3-4 with 2 2B, his line through 104 PA stands at .287/.337/.479. The BA is right around his career average. The OBP would essentially match the best of his career. The SLG% hasn't been seen since his September call-up in 2006. But that figure came with the help of a .317 BA. So the IsoD of .050 and IsoP of .191 that he's sporting right now are unprecedented.

Luck? Hardly. Young's HR/fly ball rate is between the highs of 2009 and lows of 2007-2008. His line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates are essentially unchanged from last year. The only difference that jumps out is that his BABIP is significantly lower than the well-established .338 he's put up for three straight seasons - lower by almost .040. So, if anything, Young has been unlucky at the plate so far.

Those who derided him for his hopeless plate discipline have nothing to complain about now. So far he's walked in 7.7% of his PA, a huge improvement over his previous best 5.6% rate in 2008. The 8 BB he's drawn so far in 2010 represent 2/3 of the total he had in all of 2009. At the same time, he's cut his strikeout rate nearly in half to 10.6% - better than Denard Span and Orlando Hudson and basically equal to Joe Mauer's 2010 mark.

How does this translate into games? Young has been swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, and as a result is getting himself out less. He's also been less inclined to come up hacking in general, putting himself into hitters counts and forcing opposing pitchers to work. He's been using the whole field, as evidenced by yesterday's game in which he doubled into each corner and singled to CF.

And the results will very likely continue to improve. With a greatly reduced K rate, as his BABIP regresses back to his career norms, Young's BA should find itself safely over .300 by the end of the year. If he keeps up the IsoD and IsoP, that should put him in the neighborhood of a .900 OPS by season's end.

OK, so the bat's coming around. What about the defense? Thanks to his conditioning efforts over the winter, the leaner Young has greatly increased his range in LF. His UZR had been pretty brutal in 2008 & 2009, deep in negative territory. But so far in 2010 he's rating right around 0, and average, for him, is a huge improvement. He still doesn't make every catch, but he's no longer a liability out there.

Young has finally made himself into the corner OF everyone dreamed he could be when he was selected with the 1st overall pick back in 2003. He's always hit for a good average, but now he's adding gap power, good plate discipline and solid defense to the mix. He's definitely good enough to hit 7th in the Twins' lineup, and has earned the opportunity to be out there more often than not. And he looks like he's enjoying himself, which, added to everything else he's doing, makes him fun to watch. At last!

1 comment:

Ben said...

It's great to finally be able to read this stuff about Delmon.