Rangers fans are left this week pondering the mixed legacy of their now departed Michael Young. As a legacy member of that team, Young had produced far more positive moments for the Rangers than the other way around. But his contract--which is not his fault--combined with two episodes of whining at position changes despite that contract--which is his fault--led to a falloff of some of that fan ardor. Add to the mix his horrid 2012 and the prospect of less playing time in 2013 and you have the perfect timing of his trade to the Phillies. And while it is true that he has little way else to go but up after last season, there are reasons to suspect that he will bounce back for his new team.
Let's look at five good reasons why Michael Young will bounce back in 2013:
- It seems clear that Michael Young never gelled in the designated hitter position and is much more comfortable playing in the field. In 2012, his triple slash line as a DH was: .265/.295/.367 in 292 plate appearances. In 108 plate appearances as a third baseman, his triple slash line was: .307/.352/.396. Yes, there is an element of small sample size there but looking at his career splits, he has compiled a career OPS as a DH of .784 while compiling a career OPS of .817 as a third baseman. The Phillies intend to make him their starting third baseman which will allow him to concentrate on just one thing.
- There were some anomalies in his batting stats for 2012 compared to the rest of his career. For example, looking at his batted ball data, Young traditionally had a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 1.5. That skyrocketed to 2.22 in 2012. His line drive percentage remained high, but his increased number of ground balls led to a BABIP of .242 on batted balls with that trajectory and a lowering of his historical BABIP from .334 (career) to .299 last year. Let's say that was a fluke and his hit trajectory goes back to his career norms, then he'll bounce back. 2012 also saw an uncharacteristic loss of plate discipline. For his career, he has swung at only 23.3 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. That rate has been closer to 30 the past three seasons and 33 percent in 2013. If he gets back on track in that category, that will also help.
- Michael Young played in a very tough pitching division last season. The Angels and Athletics had shutdown starters and even the Mariners could bring King Felix. Young moves to a division where he will face the Mets nineteen times and the Marlins eighteen times. Both of those teams should have difficulties maintaining a rotation, especially if the Mets jettison Dickey. Plus, the Mets boast two left-handed starters in Santana and Niese and Young kills left-handed pitching.
- One glaring statistical anomaly for Young in 2012 was his loss of effectiveness against the fastball. For his career, Young has compiled 147.3 runs above average against the fastball, an average of 14.7 runs above average per season. The prior three years, he averaged 24.3 runs above average. And then suddenly, he scores a -7.1 against the fastball in 2012!? That will bounce back.
- The statistical gurus state that walk years on player contracts have not statistically proven to be that much better than a player's normal seasons. But it still matters. There is a renewed emphasis to get one last contract and to prove his career is not over. That combined with a new situation with a new team will give him all kinds of incentive to get back to some semblance of his normal self.
Look, Mighael Young has always been a mixed bag as a player. He has compiled better than decent wins above replacement on offense while losing a third of that total with his defense. He was overrated and overpaid with the Rangers. But on the Phillies, all he has to do is his part and he will help what was a pretty pathetic offense in Philadelphia this past season. Write it down: Michael Young is going to have a bounce back season.