Sunday, June 17, 2007

Chris Young the pitcher

Chris Young is no wimp. Watch him first approach, then go straight at Derrick Lee. In the video, do you see any hesitation from Young - as you see from many baseball players in similar circumstances? I think not.

Notice how Derrick Lee, listed at 6'5", 245 lbs, looks small next to Young.

Why would Derrick Lee attack Young? Would you attack someone who approached you in apology? Doubtful. It seems more likely Young was talking trash to Derrick Lee, along the lines of

"Stop the b/s. Either take a swing at me, or get your ass to first base."

More than ever, the Texas Rangers pretrade evaluation of Chris Young is unfathomable. Tom Hicks recently explained that the Rangers thought Young had a low ceiling as a pitcher. They thought he would never develop a good curve or a good change-up. They thought he would never develop a go-to strike-out pitch, and would - for his entire career - allow major league hitters to foul off pitch after pitch, while remaining at bat, thus running up Young's pitch counts. The Rangers also thought Young had poor stamina.

Bull. Bull. And Bull again.

First: here is Young's ceiling as a pitcher: #1 Starter on a World Series Championship Team.

Second: pitchers take a long time to develop. The Rangers had Young in the major leagues for a year and a half, then dumped him. Ludicrous. Unfathomable.

Young's curve was already showing itself in Texas. His curve is more effective in San Diego, and his change-up is showing itself. An effective second pitch (curve) means hitters cannot stand in and foul off Young's fastballs with impunity. The curve makes Young's fastball a go-to strike-out pitch.

The Rangers would've been better served to contemplate that Young was succeeding at the major league level with one pitch. How freakin amazin is that! Pretty freakin amazin. Especially for a rookie. The secret is the angle/plane of Young's fastball. It comes straight down on a hitter. The hitter cannot tell if it is either going to come all the way down into the strike zone, or if it is going to stay shoulder high. St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols says he is extremely uncomfortable when facing Young's fastball. Join the club, Albert. The Rangers gave away a unique pitcher. Way to go, guys.

Third: stamina. It frequently takes longer into adulthood for tall guys to develop stamina. The Rangers were stupid to always complain about Young's stamina. Young is a tough and competitive athlete. It was easy to predict his pitching stamina would come.

This is especially true since Young had been a fiercely competitive athlete all his life, going back to youth league sports in Highland Park, a suburb of Dallas. During his rookie year in Arlington, the Sacramento Kings offered Young a guaranteed contract to play power forward for them. NBA power forwards: usually wimps. Everyone knows that.

I have to believe Young was run out of Texas by Buck Showalter. For some reason, Showalter always had a burr about Young, apparently thinking Young was not tough enough. Buck, maybe you should watch the video of Chris Young probably taunting, then going straight at Derrick Lee. You were so wrong it makes me want to scream.
I don't think Young's pitch was thrown in any unfair spot. I watched Nolan Ryan throw directly to that spot for years. I would prefer if Young's pitch had been 12 inches lower. Yet the pitch still came in below the top of Lee's shoulder - although Lee drops his shoulder and head and dives downwards - towards the plate - on the pitch. The pitch was 10 inches inside the edge of home plate. A pitcher HAS TO BE ALLOWED TO THROW THERE. A pitcher's territory cannot be allowed to end at the inside edge of the plate. A pitcher has to be allowed some space to the inside of the plate.
If Nolan Ryan were playing now, he would throw directly to this spot at least every other at bat in which he faced Derrick Lee. Nolan Ryan would NEVER allow Derrick Lee to dive towards the plate with impunity. And rightfully so. Chris Young was in the right in this instance.
Now, had the pitch been even 6 inches higher, I would say Chris Young was in the wrong. He should try to keep his purpose pitches a bit lower.
Postscript #2:
Chris Young's mom is a white haired, sweet as punkin pie, Highland Park WASP. She would never hurt a fly. She attended every Rangers game Chris pitched. Chris' Mom would be perfectly coiffed, perfectly made-up, and perfectly attired in a lovely dress which could've come straight off the Neiman Marcus rack. Not many ladies wear dresses to ballgames anymore. Chris' Mom's style was very "The Natural".
Buck Showalter grew up poor and hardscrabble, running barefoot through the dirt fields of Alabama.
Could Chris Young's genteel Mom have affected Showalter's assessment that Young was not tough enough to succeed in the majors? Could the Rangers have suffered from an unconscious class bias on Showalter's part? Just a thought.
Another thought: control freak Showalter and 27 year old GM Daniels were a poor combination.
Postscript 3: I looked up an old email rant, written when the Rangers first traded Young. My email rant was amazingly similar to what I wrote above. Here are the closing lines from my old email:
I'm not a professional coach, but my opinion is that [...] Young is a potential #1 pitcher. Young is potentially dominant. The Rangers had rights to Young for 5 more seasons! I'm angered that they traded him. We'll see how their professional baseball opinions vs. my amateur opinion, pan out.
This season, Chris Young has these stats:
2.24 ERA
1.14 WHIP
.208 BAA
1 Badass overhand right, thrown at Derrick Lee (wonder what Mom thinks)

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