SplitsVille: Chris Young v1.1

Stats don't lie, but often they don't tell the whole truth either. FutureBacks takes a good hard look at Chris Young. The centerpiece in the Javier Vazquez deal, he spent his 2005 with the Double-A Birmingham Barons of the Southern League. Three reasons Chris Young was worth it, that you didn't already know.

SplitsVille:  Chris Young v1.1

He's patient at home: 

Though Young's 'major' stats (batting average and home runs) were clearly better on the road, he continued to be productive.  Young walked 10 more times at home, despite have nearly 20 fewer at bats.  He also drove in only three runs less.  Many young players, especiallly those who skip levels and become annointed an organization's top prospect as the tender age of 20, tend to press in front of home fans and scouts.  Young did quite the opposite, he wasn't desperately trying to prove his worth, he was desperately trying to hone his craft.

In 2004 Young found his power, hitting 26 home runs after hitting a combined total of 12 during his first two seasons.  He also found the strikeout, K'ing 145 times in 465 at bats, while drawing 66 walks.  In '05 he struck out only 129 times in 466 at bats, with 70 bases on balls.  Were the gains significant?  Not especially, but considering he moved from Lo-A to Double-A, and a Double-A league considered by many scouts to have the best pitching top to bottom in the minors, this was a case of give him an inch he'll make it mile.  By not taking a step 'backwards' he actually makes three huge strides forward.

He's consistent, when he shouldn't be:

You probably read that second paragraph twice.  Or at least part of it, and you probably thought, "Ah, whatever he took a couple extra walks, what's the big--wait a minute...he had exactly one more at bat than he did last year?  That's eerie."

We thought so too, but it gets creepier. 

Battting Avg.:  '05: .277  '04:  .262

HR:  '05: 26    '04: 24

SB:  '05: 32    '04: 31

We know it's not the Holy Grail, but the point is that it bodes well.  Young was drafted as a speed guy, decided his power needed work, but kept the speed, and decided the average needs work, and kept the power and speed.  He's already considered an above average center fielder, though scouts maintain his throws became significantly more accurate this season.

We can't emphasize the difference between Lo-A and Double-A, and if you're looking for an example, look no further than the Diamondbacks own Matt Chico.  Chico so impressed the Diamondbacks in 2004 with the Lo-A Silverhawks that they fast tracked him, bumping him right up to Double-A,  at one point in Double-A this season he was 1-9, but after moving down to Hi-A Lancaster, was one of the three best pitchers in the California League the last month of the season.  Miguel Montero struggled after a midseason promotion to Double-A from Hi-A, and even the great Stephen Drew's numbers dropped significantly.  Young not only did it seamlessly, he even made some improvments.

His monthly stats are the stuff of great filmmaking...

His batting average by month tells a gripping story of a young man overcoming odds to rise to the top. 

In April, Young comes out of the gate slowly.  Seeing a steady diet of breaking balls that fall off the table and fastballs on the black he limps to just a .244 average.  He does hit four home runs, by drives in only 10 all month, and strikes out 31 times in 90 at bats.

This is where the filmmakers would insert one of those 'Working Hard' montages, Young in the cage, with the batting coach, a shot of him hitting off a tee early in the morning, then one of him with a winded pitching coach late at night under the lights.  At the end of it the pitching coach would be sweating.

Because in May Young seemed to grab hold.  He hit .277 with four more doubles, and an extra home run.  The strikeouts were still high at 32, but this time he had grabbed 107 at bats, so the ratio was better.  Most notable were the 15 walks he drew in May, nearly double the eight he grabbed in April.  Some of those breaking balls were falling off the table and into the dirt, and Young was watching it happen.

But just as pitchers can adjust for the better, they can also adjust for the worse.  In June Southern League pitchers had realized that they had to start throwing him strikes.  That meant some of those curveballs stayed in the zone, and Young took advantage, crushing eight homers in the month.  The walks were up as well, but the two most drastic changes in Young's month to month stats were diametrically opposed.  Young cut his strikeouts down to just 19 in the month, but his batting average dropped all the way to .247.  Young was making more contact, getting better pitches, but less hits. 

All-Star Games and hurricane's limited Young to only 12 games in July, and it's possible that the days off were where he put it all together.  In those 12 June games Young hit .292, but his power numbers were down and the strikeouts were up.  It was as if July were a mirror image of June, with everything backwards.

Rest, time to work on things, a pennant chase.  There are a lot of reasons August might have been Young's best month.  Our guess, he learns on the job, and after three months, he had finally learned the little lessons he needed to succeed.  He had season bests in nearly every category, despite playing in both ends of four different double headers, including one weekend where he played four games in two days (he was 7-15 with a triple and three homers by the way).  When most players should have been running on fumes, Chris Young was running on rocket fuel.  He hit .315 and nearly half his 34 hits went for extra bases.  He stole 11 bases in the month, after swiping 17 during the first four months combined.

This is the part where the filmmakers would have some tinkling music as the sun rose and Chris Young got up.  You'd see him do his morning workout (probably a little light running in a hooded sweatshirt).  He'd walk up to his locker in slow-mo, and open it to reveal a Diamondbacks uniform.  Next shot is him dressed putting on his hat, and then walking out of the dugout to a screaming throng at Chase Field.

But the Diamondbacks signed Lofton, so it might be in August of '06...after he's had time to adjust.

 

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