Five Interesting Things About New Mariner Chris Young

Jeff Sullivan · March 27, 2014 at 10:44 am · Filed Under Mariners 

On one hand, the Mariners revealed themselves to have some pretty lousy starting-pitching depth. On the other hand, we only got here because of unforeseen injuries to Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer, and Hisashi Iwakuma, because Scott Baker under-performed, and because Randy Wolf decided he was a principled man. Just yesterday, people were lamenting that the Mariners would open the season starting both Roenis Elias and Blake Beavan. People thought such a situation was embarrassing, regardless of the reasons. The Mariners agreed! So the Mariners are no longer in that situation, as they’ve picked up the tall white pitching Chris Young after he was dropped by the Nationals.

Young’s been signed to a major-league contract, and it would appear that he’ll take Beavan’s place out of the gate. Or he could get hurt, like he does, but reports from Florida have been encouraging, and this is why one shouldn’t complain too much about Blake Beavan until Blake Beavan is actually throwing relevant innings. The 40-man casualty is Bobby LaFromboise, and there are things to be said about that, but they aren’t things you’ll find here. Understand that I always feel guilty being so dismissive of professional athletes. Understand, by the same token, one can’t cover everything in everything. What’s most important here is Chris Young, and, following, please find five interesting things about him. In a list, on the Internet!

I remember, many many years ago, before I even considered Dave and myself friends, he sent me an email as part of an exchange, and he said, paraphrased, that Chris Young threw crap. It wasn’t just Dave’s opinion — it was everyone’s opinion. Young used to work in the high 80s, and more recently he’s come down to the mid 80s, and that’s not the kind of velocity you like to see from a right-handed pitcher. Yet Young was successful in the majors nevertheless, and it’s because there’s actual velocity, and there’s perceived velocity, and it’s the second one that’s the big one.

Of course, usually, they’re awfully similar. But Young’s extreme. Because of his height, and because of his forward stride, Young releases the baseball unusually close to home plate, which means it has to cover less distance than an average pitcher’s pitch. So it gets on the hitter faster, and, here’s one supporting quote:

“When you’re standing there on deck and you see the ball coming out of his hand, there’s nothing special to it,” said Florida Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison, who faced Young in his last spring-training start. “But when you get in the box, it gets on you quick. Even though he’s throwing 85, you have to treat it like 90, 92.”

In effect, Chris Young’s stuff plays up, which is one reason he’s had a long career despite the burden of Barry Zito’s arm strength. His fastball these days is around 84-85, but it doesn’t seem that way, and I should also note, relatedly, that Young’s delivery is a bit deceptive because of his height and his arm path. Chris Young can’t succeed at any velocity. He probably can succeed at his current velocity, because his current velocity isn’t the velocity hitters think that he has.

(edit: Young topping out at 88 in the spring? What do you know? Players love to say how healthy they feel, but, Young feels really healthy, and stronger than he has in years past.)

We don’t have public HITf/x data, but we have been given glimpses in the past. In November 2011, Mike Fast performed a full analysis of numbers from 2008. He found that Chris Young allowed weaker contact than average, and he ranked tenth-best in baseball in average horizontal batted-ball speed off bat (regressed). Granted, 2008 was a long time ago! Young threw a little bit harder back then. But consider this additional evidence that Young is unusually difficult to square up, and that’s probably less about his velocity, and just more about him.


Chris Young has a career groundball rate of 27%. Since 2002, 403 starters have thrown at least 200 major-league innings. Young’s groundball rate is the lowest in the group, with Chuck James nearest at 30%. The median is about 44%. Young is a super-extreme fly-baller, and he’s also a pretty extreme infield-fly-baller. You can thank his over-the-top delivery and his preference to work up in the zone. Or, if not thank, then blame, if you really don’t like fly balls. Young’s fly balls usually aren’t that bad. Again, weaker contact. Again, deceptiveness.

Over Young’s career, baserunners have attempted 179 stolen bases. On 162 occasions — 91% — they’ve been successful. That’s the highest success rate against any starting pitcher since at least 1969. In 2006, runners were 41 out of 45. The next season, they were 44-for-44. Obviously, when it comes to steals, the catcher plays some kind of role, but the pitcher plays the more important role, and Young has been easy to steal on because he’s basically a 6’10 MechWarrior with an awful lot of moving parts that doesn’t deal well with having to move suddenly in a different direction. Because of the baserunners, Young has suffered a little bit in the stranded-runner department. Runners have a slightly easier time scoring against him. It doesn’t cancel out the batted-ball effects, but it does negate a chunk.


Young didn’t pitch in the majors in 2013. When he pitched in the majors in 2012, he was mediocre. He’s become one of the more fragile starting pitchers in the game, sort of a more polite Erik Bedard, and he has the right shoulder of a mummy in a museum display. There’s absolutely no counting on Young to remain healthy all the way through this season. Thankfully, the Mariners don’t need him to do that. Really, they just need him to last until Iwakuma and/or Walker can come back, and then anything beyond that is gravy. So the Mariners just need Chris Young for a handful of starts, and if he’s throwing as well as recent reports have suggested, this could have actual upside. We all, naturally, know better than to believe too fiercely in a guy like Chris Young, since we’re accustomed to pain and he’s also accustomed to pain, but this is depth at no cost. Young’s probably better than Randy Wolf. He would’ve made the Nationals if they had a thinner rotation. The Mariners have a thin rotation, for the time being, and now Young’s coming into a big park with an improved outfield defense. I can understand, maybe, not liking this. I can’t understand disliking this.


19 Responses to “Five Interesting Things About New Mariner Chris Young”

  1. maqman on March 27th, 2014 11:38 am

    I liked the idea of signing Young, now I have a reason.

  2. Westside guy on March 27th, 2014 11:41 am

    The team signing Chris Young certainly beats a sharp stick in the eye.

  3. ndevale on March 27th, 2014 11:55 am

    1. Wow, Fangraphs sure updates its depth charts fast.
    2. Chris Young is forecast for 66 innings and a value of -0.3 WAR.
    3. Roenis Elias’ tarot reading says 56 innings and 0.2 WAR.
    4. Pitchers with little or no track record or very little recent track record, especially who have just recovered from nerve surgery, seem hard to forecast. Hard -er.
    5. Mr Cameron wrote in his chat yesterday that he would “take the under” on the Ms starting pitching rank, 7th.
    6. To me it looks like the variance is more likely to be positive, than negative.

  4. MrZDevotee on March 27th, 2014 11:55 am

    Yay fragile, guarded optimism about a move the Mariners made! (Y’know, the highest form of enthusiasm this roster warrants currently…)

    I would think, pro-rated for an entire season, the idea that Chris Young can post 1 WAR is more likely than Randy Wolf doing it. Baby steps.

  5. PackBob on March 27th, 2014 12:21 pm

    Baker-aide and Wolf-aide failed, so bring on the Young-aide. He’s one of the collective ML pile that teams in need choose from this time of year and hope for good results.

    Hopefully for the Ms that will happen with so many division games early on. But no one knows, really. For all we know, Beavan could have pitched a great few games, or at least adequate stop-gap.

    But it does feel a lot better to have Young and Beavan rather than just Beavan.

  6. Jay Yencich on March 27th, 2014 12:24 pm

    …because he’s basically a 6’10 MechWarrior with an awful lot of moving parts that doesn’t deal well with having to move suddenly in a different direction…

    Wait, you’re making a MechWarrior reference? Damn. That training mission in 2 where you were suppose to rotate and strafe the targets was the worst. Now I’m thinking about Chris Young in a whole new way.

    2. Chris Young is forecast for 66 innings and a value of -0.3 WAR.

    A good piece of that projection was probably tied up in his recently-shitty performances in which he was 84-85 with his fastball. 88mph is where he’s at now and that’s 2005-2008 territory during which time he was worth 9.9 WAR. Numbers and projections systems are great and all, assuming what you’re looking at is relatively static in development or health. When not, not.

  7. MrZDevotee on March 27th, 2014 12:34 pm

    I do like the 88 mph thing, because traditionally, don’t pitchers pick UP a couple mph’s during the first couple months of the season, as they build arm strength?

    If those other tall/reach/deceptive things play into THAT speed that means he’s a 93-94 mph relative guy, right? With I would guess WEAKER contact rates, and more popups?

  8. ndevale on March 27th, 2014 12:50 pm

    Thanks Jay. I was trying to hint something like that but you say it so authoritatively. I would love to take the 169 innings not penciled in for Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Ramirez, and Walker, mark them down under Young at a prorated 3.0 WAR. That would be the playoff red zone.

  9. terryoftacoma on March 27th, 2014 1:11 pm

    I think this could be a really good signing for the M’s. If healthy he can fill the gap now and be a spot starter later. I’d like to see the M’s sign one more like him, maybe, from the left side.I like Ramirez, Paxton, and Walker but they’re all young with limited experience and probably will be under inning restrictions. None has ever pitched over 151 innings. A couple of long men/spot starters would limit that impact. I’d hate to lose all three in September due to limits if we are even close to a playoff run. If Walker misses 3 or 4 starts it could really be a blessing because that makes shutting him down less likely.

  10. ndevale on March 27th, 2014 1:39 pm

    Now go sign Ryan Roberts for the last bench spot. Quick.

  11. Mariner.lovechild on March 27th, 2014 1:54 pm

    #3 laughed my ass off! hope he does alright…

  12. Hutch on March 27th, 2014 8:13 pm

    Strange, Heyman and Rosenthal haven’t feigned outrage and dogpiled on an easy narrative yet.

  13. gerrythek on March 27th, 2014 10:40 pm

    Now I just need to see Rosenthal interviewing Young.

  14. djw on March 28th, 2014 9:18 am

    Ugh. Another potentially interesting reclamation project, but one that relies, to no small degree, on a commodity–OF defense–the team doesn’t believe in, or care about acquiring. Hopefully McClendon isn’t as completely clueless about this as Wedge was, and will give Young our mediocre OF configuration, instead of our atrocious one.

  15. MrZDevotee on March 28th, 2014 3:08 pm

    Bobby LaFramboise, Carlos Triunfel and Xavier Avery DFA’d to make room for Elias and Biemel… Be interesting to see what happens with them, or if we can keep any of them.

    Also, Nick Franklin optioned to AAA to be everyday short stop. (Notable that he’ll still be playing SS.)

  16. casey on March 28th, 2014 3:19 pm

    see Young signed the 45 day out clause that Wolf wouldn’t – imagine people are going to be outraged at the cheapskate M’s GM again for doing same thing yet again….

  17. dantheman on March 28th, 2014 3:41 pm

    Can’t understand disliking? Because of anecdotal quotes about how his then upper 80s fastball (now mid 80s) seemed faster? Did you read his stats? How many games did he pitch last year? Zero. How many in 2011? Try 4. How many in 2010? Try 4 again. Pathetic.

  18. MrZDevotee on March 28th, 2014 4:49 pm

    Pathetic seems strong, when Atlanta just signed Aaron Harang… And Texas signed Scott Baker and Joe Saunders…

    Those are good teams. Not many people would say those teams don’t know what they’re doing. And they’re doing the same things we’ve done with starting pitching… You do the best you can with what’s out there. It’s not Xbox/pick and choose who you want… Without tiny tweaks to Kuma, Maurer and Walker, it’s not even on the radar, and Elias, Maurer and Beavan are already down at AAA camp. Considering our #2 and #3 starters haven’t pitched yet, that alone lowers the situation below the “pathetic” level in my book.

    But different perspectives, I suppose.

  19. Jon S. on March 28th, 2014 7:14 pm

    1) Serious thing
    2) Serious thing
    3) Ridiculous thing
    4) Serious thing
    5) Serious thing

    Jeff, you the best.

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