Saturday, November 08, 2014

The amazing career of Anthony Young

Anthony Young is the answer to a trivia question. Feel free to use it at your next party. The record for most consecutive losses in which a pitcher had a decision belongs to Young with 27. Between May 6, 1992 to July 24, 1993, Young did not win a game. He pitched for the Mets those two seasons and they were really bad teams. But the Mets' winning record for those two seasons at least led to a .404 winning percentage. Anthony Young's winning percentage for those two seasons was a combined .100. He went 3-30. Those numbers are just the start of a whole lot of numbers fun concerning Anthony Young.
Anthony Young first arrived on the seen for the Mets in 1991. That season, he went 2-5. By the time he was mercifully traded to the Chicago Cubs (for Jose Vizcaino) before the 1994 season, his final record with the Mets was 5-35, good (or bad) for a .125 winning percentage. The teams' winning percentage during that span was .420. Young started 31 games in those three seasons and pitched in relief another 70 times. He actually compiled 18 saves for the Mets. But he couldn't win.
Young fared a little better for the Cubs in 1994 and 1995. He was a starter for them in 1994 and pitched in relief in 1995. His record for the Cubs was 7-10. At least that was good for a .412 winning percentage. His last season was with the Astros. It was his only season not in the red and he finished at 3-3.
Those last three seasons at least allowed him to finish his career with a .238 winning percentage (15-48). Only Fernando Abad has pitched in 180 games or more and has a lower winning percentage. And only two pitchers in baseball have pitched in as many as 480 innings with a lower career winning percentage. Dolly Gray pitched between 1909 and 1911 and had a .227 winning percentage. Ike Pearson lead the way as he pitched between 1939 and 1948 and compiled a .206 winning percentage.
What is sort of amazing about that last paragraph is that Gray and Pearson had an ERA+ for their careers in the 70s. Anthony Young's career ERA+ was 100. We'll get to that a bit later.
There is so much more fun to explore first. As a starter, Anthony Young went 7-27 (.206). As a relief pitcher, Young went 8-21 (.276). He was 0-7 in save situations (though he did successfully save 20 games). He went 8-28 at home (.222) and 7-20 on the road (.259). June was a particularly bad time for Anthony Young. He went a combined 2.16 in June (.111).
Young went 9-32 in the first half (.220) and 6-16 in the second half (.273). He went 8-28 at night (.222) and 7-20 during the day (.259). Young went 9-33 on grass (.214) on grass fields and 6-15 on artificial turf (.286).
Remarkably, Young finished with a 2-20 record in games he pitched at Shea Stadium. Shea was a pitchers park. His other dark place was Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, where he went 0-5.
The only way Anthony Young could win as a starter was if his team scored six or more runs. He went 6-0 in such situations. But that happened fourteen times when he started games. In other words, there were eight times his team scored more than six runs and Young could not even manage a decision.
Anthony Young's teams scored five or less runs 37 times. Young went 1-27 in those games. He was 0-18 when his team scored two runs or less and 1-9 when they scored three to five runs.
One of the biggest arguments between old school baseball observers and the new statistically minded writers is what makes a good pitcher. The old school thought was: Did the guy win and did he have a good ERA. Now we look at FIP and WAR and other things. By old standards, Anthony Young was awful in that he could not win. But his ERA (and ERA+) were often quite acceptable. His ERA+ was over 100 (league average) in four of his six seasons.
FIP tells us another story. Young had a FIP of 3.38 in 1992, which isn't half bad. But it went up every season after that by more than fifty points. And, as mentioned, he finished with a 100 career ERA+. There are a lot of mixed signals in his career numbers. gives him 1.1 rWAR for his career. gives him 2.5 fWAR including positive WAR for all three years he was a Met. Hmm...
The truth is somewhere in the middle. The Mets were dead last in fielding efficiency in 1991, next to last in 1992 and in the bottom half in 1993. In other words, his fielders did not help him. Since he was not a strikeout guy and put the ball in play, that had to hurt him. For his three years with the Mets, he allowed 148 runs, but only 115 of them were earned or 78%. Compare that with the 84% of his runs were earned with the Cubs and 94% with the Astros.
The numbers also tell us that as a right-handed pitcher, Young did not pitch well against left-handed batters. They had an .828 OPS against him in his career with a batting average over .300.
An old school guy would say that Anthony Young did not know how to win. But he did go 15-3 in Double-A in 1990. But perhaps a well-balanced look at everything overall tells us that Anthony Young had an extraordinary run of bad luck with the Mets and while not one of the best pitchers ever, did pitch better than his record.
The losing streak was amazing. Fans were sending him rabbit feet and all kinds of things to help him. The family of the previous record holder, Cliff Curtis, even made a video telling him to pitch a no-hitter so not to break the family's record. Young broke it anyway. The losing streak created a life of its own and colored his career forever.  Perhaps he deserved a kinder fate. But at least this way, his career will never be forgotten.

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