The Rangers have what is arguably baseball's best offense. They are first in runs, 2nd in OPS (on-base plus slugging) and 2nd in wOBA (an advanced offensive statistic which takes into account ballpark factors and other variables). This year's team has received big contributions across the table, from Josh Hamilton's occasional brilliance to Elvis Andrus' maturation and more of the usual from Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. But one mainstay has been noticeably absent from the Rangers' run-scoring parades this year: The team's elder statesman and face of the franchise, Michael Young.
Young has put together a fantastic career here in Texas. His career line of .302/.347/.455 is very solid. His 2,181 hits in a Rangers uniform place him first all-time, and it's not particularly close. He's the 7th best Ranger ever in terms of Wins Above Replacement. But 2012 Michael Young is not the Michael Young we have to come know.
Michael Young is a DH. That's the fact of the matter.There are days when Ron Washington plays him elsewhere, but he is a DH. There isn't a position on the diamond at which scouts and numbers don't agree he is below-average. The singles are still coming, to an extent (.273 average), but Young has taken 21 walks on the year and only managed 3 home runs. His 24 extra-base hits are 10 less than Elvis Andrus' tally in 2012. Young has the 13th-lowest On-base plus Slugging percentage in all of baseball and its 12th lowest wOBA. Take a look at this table for some perspective.
|Michael Young ('12)||.652|
|Michael Young ('11)||.854|
|Seattle Mariners ('12)||.655|
|Average DH ('12)||.772|
|Craig Gentry ('12)||.812|
|Mike Napoli ('12)||.771|
|Yorvit Torrealba ('12)||.643|
Young's OPS is nearly 200 points lower than it was last year. For a little reference, the lowly Mariners, who boast the majors' worst mark, are ahead of Young. The league-average for DH this year is .772, substantially better than Young's showing. In fact, Young's .652 mark this year is the fifth-lowest by any all-time DH.
This isn't meant to belittle Young's career, knock him personally or hurt anyone's feelings. It's meant to ask this rather pointed question: Why has Young remained in the Rangers' starting lineup day-in and day-out? Craig Gentry, a very fine defensive player, is sitting on the bench despite an .812 OPS and the team's fifth-highest Wins-Above-Replacement mark. Brandon Snyder, who destroyed lefties to the tune of a .318 batting average and .916 OPS, was relegated to AAA.
Mike Olt is, according to multiple prospect lists, a top 10 prospect in baseball -- and in every analyst's mind, a top 50 guy. To the unitiated, he's the kid who had the big pinch-hit walkoff single in Saturday night's win over the Tigers. He hit 28 AA homers this year on his way to a .977 OPS for Frisco. He has started four games in 11 days since his call-up. Even Mike Napoli, prior to his recent inury, was spending some days on the bench in lieu of Young. Look past his batting average and see the walks and power -- he, too has been substantially better than Young this year.
You have not heard much about Young's struggles this year. That's because the Rangers are rocking and rolling. They have the biggest division lead of any team and the AL's best record. But their aspirations stretch beyond regular-season strength. They're angling for a world series championship. And right now, Michael Young is holding their lineup back from being its best. Could he pull things together and be a productive hitter once again? Absolutely. No one will make the case he hasn't been an above-average hitter for the past 11 seasons. But based on what he's done this year, Michael Young would not start in a meritocracy. Not here -- and not on 90% of the teams in Major League Baseball.
(Yes, some stats in the video are a little outdated -- we aired the segment several days ago).