01 January 2015

Delmon Young Returns to Orioles, Makes Blogger Sad

Delmon Young (photo via Keith Allison)
While you were hanging your stockings from the chimney with care last week, the Baltimore Orioles re-signed OF/DH Delmon Young to a 1-year, $2.25 million contract.  The contract includes incentives that could increase the overall value to $3 million.  Young had arguably the most productive season of his career, hitting .302/.337/.442 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 255 PA’s, which was good for 120 wRC+.  He was worth 0.9 fWAR, which is outstanding production for someone who was signed to a minor league contract.  In fact, if you pro-rate Young’s performance out to 600 PA’s, he would have been worth 2.1 wins, making it his best season ever by half a win.  For someone who had been worth -1.3 fWAR over 3,936 career plate appearances prior to last season, it’s an understatement to say that the Orioles got great value.

Of course in the real world, giving Young a full 600 PA’s wouldn’t have resulted in production that high mainly because Young’s 2014 season was based largely on luck. This isn’t a shocking thing to say.  After a great 2014 season (for both Young and the Orioles), I don’t want to be a “Debbie-Downer”, but I want to temper expectations of what to expect from Young in 2015.

One of the reasons the Orioles were able to extract so much value out of Young is because they didn’t let him play much defense (only 159.1 innings in the outfield).  In fact, the main reason Young has been an unproductive player is because of his defense, where he’s been worth -53 DRS in almost 7,000 innings.  The Orioles, a team who is known to value defense, were wise enough to limit his time in the outfield, preventing him from taking away too many of the runs he produced with his bat.  Since 159.1 of those innings Young played in the field were approximately 159.1 innings too many, the Orioles would be wise to employ the same tactic in 2015 to further maximize Young’s value.

As for Young’s 2014 success with the bat, let’s start with his BABIP.  Overall, Young’s BABIP in 2014 was .359, higher (but not extraordinarily higher) than his career level of .324.  Even though it’s not a huge difference, there are two reasons to be skeptical of his inflated 2014 BABIP.  First is the fact Delmon Young is not a fast runner, and his 2014 GB% of 50.3% won’t help him in sustaining that BABIP.  Out of all hitters in 2014 with at least 250 PA’s, Young was tied with Adam Eaton for the third highest BABIP for players with a GB% of at least 50%.  The players ahead of them were Jon Jay (.363) and Lorenzo Cain (.380).  It’s safe to say that Young doesn’t have much else in common with any of those players and I’ll give one guess as to which of the four is most likely to see a significant decrease in their BABIP next year.

The other reason for skepticism deals with the fact that while Young has historically had trouble against RHP, his BABIP against them shot up to .379 in 2014 (career .317).  In fact, he was a much better hitter against RHP altogether.  For his career (including 2014), Young has had a 91 wRC+ hitter against RHP, while producing a 114 wRC+ against LHP.  The 2014 season showed the opposite, with a 130 wRC+ against RHP against a 101 wRC+ against LHP.  His splits from 2014 are obviously small samples, so it’s probable that he’ll again hit better against LHP in 2015.  However, since hitting against left-handers doesn’t happen as often as right-handers, his production will likely be muted if his good luck doesn’t carry over to next season.

This post isn’t meant to bash the signing of Delmon Young.  It’s to remind the reader not to expect a repeat from him in 2015.  At only one year in length, it’s not a bad signing, especially since Young was reportedly looking for two years.  And if Young can somehow repeat his 2014, the Orioles will again get their money’s worth out of him.  However, it’s not an inspiring acquisition, and that leaves at least one Orioles blogger a little sad, especially considering that there still are much better (and/or more versatile) options available this offseason.


Anonymous said...

If a player has The Hit Machine for a nickname and it legitimately reflects his prowess at the plate, it can't be all to the bad to have him returning to a team.

The hope here, though, is that Young agreed to come to spring training in better shape, as that seems to be his biggest impediment--along with taking adventurous routes--in the outfield.

But if he has another season offensively similar to what he did last year, Oriole fans can rest assured that Buck won't overuse him in the field.

Anonymous said...

Stating as fact that his productive season was due to luck makes the article look totally unprofessional. You could say that it appears some luck was involved but you certainly can't prove his stats were based on luck,

Michael Wallace said...

As long as he doesn't ever play the field, I'm fine with the one year deal. It wasn't a lot of money or anything.

Michael Wallace said...

I'm expecting we're going to see Rasmus in Baltimore unless he completely blows his interview with Buck. Not really sure how I feel about that one. Could be good, or really bad.

Anonymous said...

My greatest D Young memory is when he was with the Twins against the O's he came up in a bases full situation and our pitcher was so wild it was a 3-0 count and the fourth pitch was a running, tailing fastball that was getting ready to plunk him and he popped out. It was the worst ab I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

If he is getting a one year deal under three million, then the entire baseball industry thinks he was lucky last year.

Anonymous said...


Matt Kremnitzer said...

Feel free to disagree with our writers' articles in the future, but please don't comment in all caps. It's unnecessary.

Nate Delong said...

Anon (from January 2): I don't think "unprofessional" is the write word, but I do agree that I probably could have used better wording at times, so that it didn't sound like I was stating it as fact.

Anon (from January 7): Young did produce last year, much more than anyone thought he would. The stats referenced in the article were used to demonstrate my belief that I don't expect him to be as productive in 2015.