Since Da Meat Hook’s little bro has been a Tiger, there has been a great debate on whether or not Delmon Young is a good player. Traditionalists who use their eyes and basic stats like RBI, BA, and MVP voting in order to judge Young, are much in favor of his play. However, other types of baseball analysts, or the so called “SABR” community has a much different view of his play. Most of all, the lingering question that people want to know is: should the Tigers bring back Delmon Young next year to play LF?
Delmon as a hitter
Is Younga good hitter? On the surface, it appears so. Sure, he has a career .290 average. He’s just 25 and has so much room to grow. He was the former first pick overall. He has bat speed. He’s oozing with potential. He had 112 RBI last year. He has 19 RBI in 25 games. He finished 10th in the MVP voting last year. These are all arguments that can be made to support his case for Trad’s.
However, delving a little deeper, here is what you find: Delmon’s career OPS is .749. For a left fielder, that is average. He has a 101 OPS+. Not great either. His .779 OPS as a Tiger is pretty astonishing, considering he’s only got one walk. Besides his .826 OPS in 2010, his full season OPS’ are: .723, .741, .733, and a .692 this year. Of the 54 qualifying outfielders since 2007, Delmon’s .748 OPS ranks 47th. Also, if you look at Delmon’s wOBA’s, he sports seasons of: .315, .324, .312,.352, .302. Of the same OF who qualify since 2007, Delmon’s wOBA is the fourth worst, or 51nd. The reason for this minor discrepancy is that wOBA values OBP a little more. Even just since 2009, Delmon ranks 40th of 59 OF in OPS. So it’s not just that he struggled when he was younger. All in all, Delmon is probably a below average hitter for a starter.
Delmon’s plate discipline
This is where I have a huge problem with Young. As a Tiger, he’s got one walk. ONE walk in 109 PA. That is unfathomable. He has one of the most bizarre batting lines I’ve seen as a Tiger (305/.312/.467). A .312 OBP with a .305 average. That’s nearly impossible. Delmon’s plate discipline stats, not only for this year, but his career, are just terrible. His O-Swing has gone up in the past few years, which makes sense, because pitchers were throwing him 53% of pitches in the zone in 2006, and that is down to 44% now. As of this season, his 40% O-Swing is worse than 95% of the league.
So, since Delmon can’t delineate between a ball and a strike, it’d make logical sense to ask him to swing less, right? If you take a look at his swing rate (the number of times he swings the bat), it has gone down since he’s been in the league. However, it was so astronomically high, that it really had nowhere to go. Since 06, it’s gone from 68% to 63%, to 59%, and finally, this year, it’s down to 55%. But, this number is still 13th out of 176 guys with 400 PA or more on the season. At the same time, the balls he’s seen in the strike zone have gone down the same aforementioned 10% (53-44).
Delmon seems to have absolutely no idea what’s coming, but he swings at it anyway.
Next, he has 121 walks in 2900 PA as a pro. That is good for a 4.2% walk rate. Of all hitters since 2007 who have 1000 PA, or 329 hitters, Delmon’s walk rate ranks 315th. He simply cannot take a walk. In all of his time with Minnesota, you’d think that Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, all of whom were patient hitters, would have presented him with this marvelous idea of not swinging. The idea that Cabrera and Martinez are going to teach him to walk is lunacy. In fact, Miguel will walk close to 120 times just this season.
You don’t need to be a SABR or an OF coach to know that Delmon is plain awful at fielding. Watching him field brings me back to my 7th grade travel team. He makes Charlie Brown look good. While UZR isn’t the most reliable of stats, it’s worth taking into consideration that in his 6 full seasons, Delmon’s UZR is -45.7. He’d be better off with two frying pans out there.
Here is where it all gets tricky. Delmon is entering his last year of arbitration. He is earning 5.4 MM this season, and is probably due to get a raise. Why is he due for a raise? In short, baseball arbiters look at counting stats, rather than the full picture. All Delmon’s agent really has to say is “he finished 10th in MVP voting, he’s 25,” etc. Arn Tellem is good, and I doubt the Tigers would win their case. Even so, they’d have to pay him pretty close to 5.5 MM.
Is Delmon worth that on the open market? Maybe. Basically, general manager Dave Dombrowski has a decision to make. Should he non-tender Delmon and try to bring him back cheaper? Should he offer him a contract without going to arbitration? Should he go to arbitration? Or, should the Tigers look to find a different player?
My vote is to go a different direction. After reviewing all of these numbers, it’s pretty obvious that Delmon isn’t a good player. Whether you believe in WAR or not, the fact that Delmon has been worth .9 WAR since 2007 is just appalling. The players that Delmon has been better than are Jermaine Dye, Jose Guillen, and Yuniesky Betencourt out of 133 qualified players. I’d love to see the players pick up a player like David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, even Michael Cuddyer to play LF next year. If worst comes to worst, a platoon of Raburn and Dirks would still probably produce as much value as Delmon.
Don’t let his 25 game mini hot streak with a few RBI fool you, Delmon Young is not a good player. I’m happy we have him for the rest of this season. I really don’t mind the trade that got him here. We need someone to occupy an OF position due to Boesch’s injury and Magglio’s oldness. But, please, DD, I’m begging you- don’t bring Delmon back.