Friday, May 2, 2008

More bad Delmon

As has been discussed previously, Delmon Young has been a major disappointment this year so far, showing absolutely no power and pretty much becoming an outfield version of Nick Punto - with less walks. Now, with over 100 at bats in the books this year, we can take a harder look. One hundred ABs is still a pretty small sample size, but it's enough to be valid, especially when it is continuing a trend.

The trend is his complete lack of power, gap or over the wall. With 102 abs, he's had all of four extra base hits, and is slugging .314, just north of Nick Punto. Simply put, a .314 slugging pct. is amazingly low. Only two regular players last season managed to put up a lower slugging pct in over 500 plate appearances, Nick Punto and Jason Kendall. In the past ten years, only 32 players have managed to do it, with names like Mike Bordick, Otis Nixon, Cesar Izturis, and Mickey Morandini. Historically low, and the territory of middle infield defensive wizards and slap hitters.

Again, it's only 100 at bats this season, but as has been pointed out before, it's continuing a trend which begain in his minor league days. Since his first season in class A ball, he's slugged .538, .527, .474, .476, .408, and now .314. Sure, he's young, and there is plenty of opportunity for him to turn it around, but this is looking like more than just a fluke due to some interesting findings.

First off, his groundball vs. fly ball percentage is way, way up. It should be obvious that hitting groundballs makes it harder to get on base, and Delmon is a case in point.

In his first two seasons, 46% of his balls put into play were on the ground. I can't find an league average statistic, but from some reading it looks like the average is somewhere around 50% of balls are hit on the ground. This season so far, he's up to a 59%, too much for a power hitter (Morneau is at 46%). This wouldn't be nearly as bad if he was increasing his line drive % as well, but he's dropped there from 26% to 21% to 17% in his three seasons.

Adding to his degree of difficulty is his horrendous pitch selection. Check out his swinging strikes:

Compared to, say, Joe Mauer:

Ignore the total amount of swinging strikes for a moment, and just concentrate on the ones out of the strike zone. Mauer has 24. Young has 73. Seventy three swinging strikes outside of the strike zone. Forty three of which are low. And if you do happen to swing at a ball below your knees and hit it fair, guess where it's probably going?

As a matter of fact, Young swings at 36% of all pitches that are out of the strike zone. 36%. 36. Sadly, that's a major improvement from his rookie year, when he swung at over 50% of pitches out of the zone. Carlos Gomez is even worse at 40%. For comparison sake, Mauer swings at 17% of pitches out of the zone. Jack Cust at just 14%. Notorious hackers Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero swing at 33% and 45%.

None of these problems is particularly worrisome on it's own. As mentioned, Vlad Guerrero is a well-known free swinger, with a similar strike zone profile to Delmon. Joe Mauer actually has almost identical groundball/flyball/line drive splits. And the drop in slugging happens to a lot of players adjusting to the major leagues. You can succeed with any of these issues, the problem here is the combination of all three.

Look, I was in favor of the trade, and I'm still hoping Delmon succeeds. The fact of the matter is, he's not doing what he needs to do. Obviously, he's only 22 and has plenty of time to straighten out, but there are some real warning signs flashing. In 2005 at the age of 22, Jose Reyes walked 27 times in 724 plate appearances and was considered an ok shortstop with a bright future. The next season, he walked 53 times in 700 PAs and made the leap to superstar. Let's hope Young takes a page out of that book, and not out of the Jacque Jones book, which is right where he's heading - but with less power.

Stats courtesy of Hardballtimes, Fangraphs, and the awesomely nerdy blog "from smallball to the long ball."


Dharma Bum said...

I'm a fan of Young's but it hasn't looked good so far. Did you see Gardy's quote in the strib today? "he's not one of these guys that go in there and snaps or anything like that..."
I hate to use this language but LOL!

Bear said...

Cust strikes again!

Vinci said...

Did you mean strikes out again? He has a little work to do if he wants to lead the AL in that category again this year. Currently he's 5 back but the season is early.

Bear said...

No, I meant he went yard again, just as he went yard again today and raised his OBP to .426. Yes, he did strikeout again, so you can mock and ridicule him for that.