Michael Young was a fashionable pinata after the 2010 season. The Texas Rangers had just signed Adrian Beltre to play third and Mike Napoli to split time between catching and first base. Michael Young was going to be the designated hitter. Michael Young was not happy and requested a trade. He was skewered by this space and by others around the Web. After his 2011 season, nobody is laughing now. Sure, Young still makes a lot of money from an ill-advised contract. Sure, you really should not give him a glove. But boy, the guy handled the transition after his initial pout and quietly put up a monster offensive season. It was a season that rivaled the 34 year old season of a Hall of Fame designated hitter, Paul Molitor.
Molitor, like Young, had a difficult season at age 33. But both came back with a vengeance at age 34. Compare the numbers:
- Molitor (1991 - Twins): .325/.399/.489 .888 OPS. 752 plate appearances. 216 hits
- Young (2011 - Rangers): .338/.380/.474 .854 OPS. 689 plate appearances. 213 hits
Pretty similar seasons, eh? Molitor continued on a tear for several more seasons. He played seven more seasons after his age 34 season and collected 1,233 more hits to cement his Hall of Fame ticket. While not predicting Michael Young as an eventual Hall of Fame candidate, the two players were at a similar crossroad before their age 34 season. Molitor was a designated hitter long before Young in his career. But Molitor had never had quite a season like his age 34 season before. He famously shortened his swing and well, he just went crazy.
Are we seeing a similar life change for Michael Young? It's possible. Young cut his strikeout rate from 16 percent in 2010 to 11.3 percent in 2011. Paul Molitor struck out less than Young and walked more. Molitor had a slightly higher career wOBA and wRC+. And Molitor played in an era that was less of an offensive era. Thus, his OPS+ was higher than Young's. But their age 34 seasons seem otherwise to be so strikingly familiar. And Young is creaming the ball again this spring training. So again, is Michael Young the next Paul Molitor?
One last comparison for you. After Molitor's age 34 season, he had compiled 2,086 hits. Michael Young after his age 34 season now has 2,061 hits. Who is to say that Young can duplicate Molitor's amazing 1,233 hits after his age 34 season. But who is to say he can't?