Thursday, April 23, 2009

Michael Young: Psychological Drive and Professionalism

These are the good leadership qualities Michael Young brings. He embodies: this is how you get through a tough moment, this is how you get through a slump, this is the psychological drive you embody to move through and be successful.

Professionalism - everyone knows what this means, but I want to highlight Michael Young's generosity. He mentored Ian Kinsler in how to display proper psychological drive and professionalism; he is now mentoring Elvis in same. Young is a leadership example of psychological drive and professionalism for all the young players(and the Rangers have a lot of young players).

I have my gripes with Michael Young. He takes the wrong mentality into the batter's box, and consequently swings at too many pitches. His understanding of defensive fundamentals is particularly weak for a veteran infielder. The presence of Omar Visquel only highlights Young's fundamental deficiencies.

In particular, Young plays defense with too high a center of gravity. This means his reactions are slow. He likes to glean info about pitch locations, and about hitters, and to cheat towards the likely place a ball will be hit, and that is all to the good. Yet his reaction is slow b/c he is too high. Worse, especially at 3B, this means Young is terrible when diving for a grounder.

An infielder should begin with a low center of gravity, then dive horizontal to the ground.*  Elvis Andrus plays with a limber and low center of gravity. As a result, Elvis can extend horizontally while still in full stride; while never leaving his feet. Elvis seemingly could run full speed and pass under your dining room table. Elvis can get his center of gravity so low that he can run and reach out (horizontally) for the ball. He does this via body lean which would cause him, if he didn't correct it, to forward face plant into the ground. Yet, Elvis moves like a dancer. After a couple of strides of immense body lean, Elvis corrects his balance before he face plants. Elvis is still on his feet, with the ball, throwing to first, making it look easy on a ball many SS's (definitely including, for instance: Michael Young and Derek Jeter) would never have gotten to.

Back to Michael Young: his center of gravity is too high. When he dives, he doesn't stretch horizontally so much as he vertically car crashes into the ground. From a high height.    Honestly, it has to hurt. He's gravity crashing into the hardpack dirt. It's no wonder he doesn't like to dive.  High center of gravity is why Michael Young might be this as a third baseman: Fail. He's just too danged high. 3B is a reaction position, and he can't react because his body is not coiled to react. Young runs well, and thus is good on slow to medium rollers which need to be chased. He throws well, if somewhat inaccurately.   Michael Young could be a Brooks Robinson lite type of athleticism.   Nothing, so far, indicates that will happen.

Will end on a high note: Young's batting has been in slight but steady decline for three seasons. He seems to have stopped the fall, and maybe even progressed in a positive direction. He had been positioned too far from the plate, and consequently dumped too many balls into RF, displaying little power. That has changed. Young is now turning on balls with some power - especially to left center field. Michael Young used to be almost incapable of turning on anything. With the old Michael Young, the Left Fielder may as well have taken a chair and flirted with the ball girl. Nothing was going to go to LF.

My hope, maybe everyone's hope, for Michael Young is that he can have a Paul Molitar finish to his career. Molitar had some power late in his career. I've no doubt Michael Young could hit 25 home runs if he focused on improving his power. I hope he does so. It appears he has already changed his approach at the plate. Good.  He's a talented hitter, if he will use his skills correctly.

*Best way to teach a youth to dive horizontally:    Slip N Slide.   

You can make your own Slip N Slide with $15 of polypropelene plastic sheeting from Home Depot.  It's the stuff they tack to the inside of the wood frame of your home - up against the insulation.  Run hose water over the polypropylene.  I've done it:  works like a charm.  I ran the sheeting and water down a slight incline, so the water would spread pleasingly across the sheeting.  I sat on the top edge of the sheeting(as human anchor), aimed my hose, and watched the awesome.  The kids will learn to get a low center of gravity.

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