Evaluating where Chris Young has improved

There are some positives to take out of Young's season. (We all know the negatives and they have been discussed all season, HR's were down, K's were up, Steals were down)  But I want to focus on the positive for CY, because I think there are a lot.

1.) He increased his walks from 43 to 62, and his walk % from  0.69 to 0.89

2.)  His OBP went from .295 to .315, an increase of 20 points in an environment where league average OBP went down. 

3.) While his HR's were down 10, his XBH hit total actually increased from 64 to 72, thanks to a huge jump in doubles and triples.

4. ) His BABIP went from .260 to .304.  Thats not luck in this case. Remember hitters have more control over their BABIP than pitchers do, and in fact Young's Line Drive Rate  went from 15.1%  to 19.1%. 

5.) For the second year in a row his second half numbers were much better than his first half numbers.  Selective begin and end points, to be sure, but perhaps an indication he is capable of making in season adjustments.  I fully admit to being quite disheartened by his first half.  I lamented quite often how he seemed to be making a huge step backward at the time. But with the perspective of the entire season, and without  the ever present  emotion of frustration during the actual games, it's easier to take a longer term view here.

6.) His situational hitting with RISP and Men on base improved a great deal in 2008.  I think we all acknowledge that due to small sample sizes, BA W RISP and the like are not very predictive, but he went from awful in these situations to decent.

CY's Splits page

7.) His sac bunting improved...he went from 1 to 6 SH,  and he was much more willing to show bunt attempt for base hit  and get the 3B to cheat. I've always felt this was key for Young's success because he pulls so many hard grounders and low liners to the left side.  So he gets the double benefit of utilizing his speed AND increasing his chances of getting a hit past a cheating 3rd basemen.  I'd like to see more of it from him in 2009.  He still needs to improve his bunting for basehit attempt %.  He was just 3 for 12 when attempting to bunt for a hit.  He and Justin Upton both had just 3 Bunt hits, and that was tied for just 40th in the majors. Guys this fast need to improve on this.  But just showing the attempts will help him get more hits in the long run.

He's still got a lot to work  on  course. Pitch recognition being first and foremost.  For example the major league average for Percentage of strikes looking is 27%. In 2007, Young's was 32%, and that went even higher in 2008, to 34%.   We all saw it all year long....he just stared at too many hittable strikes.     If  CY can learn to recognize strikes a little better, and swing and not miss those hittable pitches, pitchers will start being much more careful with him and not just pound the strike zone like they do now, knowing they can get ahead.

Finally, the other positives for CY are that he's still only 25, and that he just came off an excellent defensive season in which he established himself as a top tier defensive centerfielder.   I believe going forward CY has an excellent chance to continue to improve, and that when it's all said and done, we will have determined he was well worth the contract extension.

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