Welcome to the first of a two-week series of previews from TBOH. This week we start by giving an optimist’s take on several of the year’s more debatable issues. First up is starting “third” “baseman” Michael Young.
Michael Young has been in the Philadelphia organization for months now, and he has not been embraced for having a fantastic smile or developing a neat catch phrase, so that means he is the recipient of that other thing we do: Dreadful scrutiny and complaining.
Everything Young does will be filtered through the “Michael Young” filter, which is an antique filter that barely functions correctly half the time.
But why are we so down on Michael Young? Is it his age? His seeming decline in offense? His seeming incompetence on defense? That his former team – on which he spent the rest of his 12-year career – deemed him as a “DH,” a position that does exist in the NL?
But once you machete through the jungle of Michael Young problems, you could, per chance, arrive in a vast, open field, with the warmth of the sun caressing your cheeks.
It’s well documented that they guy was at one point a Gold Glove second baseman. Remember all that talk when we were going to acquire him to replace Chase Utley? People were advocating a trade for him that would include sending Roy Oswalt back to Texas. Other people didn’t think he was worth Joe Blanton. It devolved into a contest to see who could generate the most ridiculous hypothetical Michael Young trade in which the Phillies were greatly overpaying - to the point that people forgot who they’d even be trading for.
Two years later, they were reminded who Michael Young was when the Phillies actually acquired him, this time to play third, and after the worst season of his career. But that’s not a sign of a decline – I mean it could be, potentially, but there’s also an indication that he’ll bounce back. Last year, Young was declining, but suffered bad luck, bodily harm, and a public dispute with team ownership. As a guy with something to prove – that he can contribute at all – Young’s motivation will be fiery, supplementing the potential bump that comes from a guy in a new setting.
He’s no long term solution at third, but that takes away any need to worry about whether or not success he achieves in 2013 is “sustainable.”
While not defying the usage of sabermetrics, Young does admit he doesn’t fully understand them, and has pointed out that the lack of a “perfect system” for measuring defensive stats may skew his actual skill level. There is brief accuracy in his statement, but it’s not really his skill that’s called into question, it’s his movement. (“Your move, the internet,” says this article, as if a guy like Young whose value is clearly not in the stats column wouldn’t defend himself by saying that stats are flawed). Also, it’s his skill.
But even in that vein, he has addressed issues and made adjustments, citing a higher defensive stance to allow for greater mobility. I’m no movement scientist, but there are plenty of guys not getting to the ball out there who refuse to make adjustments. **elbows Dan Uggla**
And thus far this spring, Young has yet to really stir up any monumental fuck-ups out there, while showing strength and accuracy with his arm (a concern arising from his placement in middle infield slots more often throughout his career).
He’s committed one error in 17 games, and while not erasing the anxiety of him playing the position full time, he hasn’t developed any new problems. It’ll be an uphill battle; every clean play gets him a step forward, every missed grounder will take him back 20.
Defensively, we can dream, but at the plate is where Young’s resurgence is most expected. He was still touted as a Major League hitter, to the point that the Rangers were willing to play him in a position where that’s all he would do. He’s hitting close to .300 right now after 54 plate appearances. He knows how to hit, it’s just that his body may be slowing down to the point that knowing how to hit is all he can do.
Pessimism is easily a defensible position on Michael Young. He was pegged as overrated before his decline, and now that he’s in it, he’s even worse.
Wait, this was supposed to be optimism! Look, Michael Young will hit. Even in a decline, there exists the notion that he was scraping bottom last year and couldn’t have fallen so far without other, now resolved, factors in play. The best world the Phillies can live in with Young right now is one in which he handles the balls he can get to, gets replaced by a slick Freddy Galvis late in games, protects Ryan Howard with reasonable power, and offers a new, highly motivated veteran presence to help offset the simmering complacency of recent years (Also helping here would be Ryan Howard, excited to play a full year and bounce back from injury; Dom Brown becoming a power presence; a few new youngsters with natural enthusiasm in Ben Revere, Darin Ruf, Freddy Galvis, etc.)
He will likely screw up a few times. Probably cost us some runs. Maybe some games. We’ll probably all get super-mad, and sports talk radio will concoct a trade in which we cast him off to Chicago for Alfonso Soriano. But at this juncture, there’s no reason to assume that productivity from Michael Young isn’t a *complete* thing of the past.