By: Brian Mangan
(Follow @brianpmangan for Mets analysis and views every day)
Chris Young homered twice on Tuesday. He homered again on Wednesday. However, on Thursday, he did not find his name in the lineup. Does that seem peculiar to you? Because it seemed peculiar to me, and it felt like the continuation of a pattern that I was growing accustomed to seeing – Chris Young being stapled to the bench after a good performance.
I like data, not feelings, so I decided to take a look at Chris Young’s performances over the last month and see if this was really happening. I grouped Young’s starts into two broad categories: good games and bad games. In order to be classified as a good game, Young would simply need to go 1/4 or better at the plate. A .250+ average is good, everything else is bad. Crude, but fine for these purposes.
Then, I looked to see what happened after each of those games, at whether Young started or was benched for the next team game. The results are… perplexing. For the last month, from May 29th to the present, Young has had 8 “good games” and 7 “bad games” where the Mets had a game the next day.
After the “bad games”, he was started 57% of the time and benched 42% of the time.
However after the “good games”, he was started 25% of the time and benched 75% of the time.
[FN] On May 29, Chris Young went 2/4 with a home run, but was benched the next day. On June 5, Young went 1/3 with an RBI and two walks, but was benched the next day. On June 10, he went 1/4 with a steal and was benched the next day. On June 19 he doubled and was benched the next day. June 21, 2/4 with an RBI, benched. There were only two instances where Young had a good game and played the next day – after a 2/4 performance on June 7 and after his 2 HR performance on June 24. In contrast, Young started the next day after going 1/6, 1/5, 0/4 and 0/4 on May 31, June 12, June 13, and June 18.
It’s no secret that I think Terry Collins is a terrible manager- the worst of his sins being the management of his roster. If Chris Young is your guy, you need to play him, and you need to get him into a groove. Do you need to find starts for Bobby Abreu and Eric Campbell and use your entire 25 man roster? Of course you do. But how do you expect a player to ever develop any rhythm when he’s being jerked in and out of the lineup all the time — especially when he’s more than twice as likely to be benched after a game in which he hits a home run than a game in which he goes 0/4.
[FN2] Some have explained this by saying that Young was being benched against RHP after good games against LHP. Although I haven’t researched the matter beyond what you see in this column (and by all means, I welcome someone to do so), that is not the case. It is true that for his career, Young has been a little better against LHP (827 OPS) than RHP (708 OPS).
This year, however, the split is reversed — his OPS against RHP is 671 (in 144 AB) and against LHP is 594 (in 43 AB), and 6 of his 7 home runs have come against righties. Either way, a gap of ~125 OPS points between RHP and LHP does not make you a guy who should be “platooned”. Duda , for example, is being properly platooned (827/630).
Collins pulled the same shenanegans last year with Collin Cowgill, a Read Zone favorite. We identified Cowgill as a sleeper for 2013, saying as follows in our preseason primer:
Cowgill is young, athletic, can run the bases, can play defense, and he can hit enough to stick in the big leagues. He provides value in enough areas that he will, at worst, be useful, and on top of that I believe he has the opportunity to exceed expectations at the plate . . . Even if he falls slightly short of [his fangraphs projections, Cowgill will] be an asset due to his defense and his speed.
Cowgill homered on Opening Day 2013, but was never given an opportunity to play after that. As we wrote in May last year:
Cowgill was the Opening Day center fielder, started only 6 of the 9 games after Opening Day and was given a grand total of 30 at-bats before he was marginalized. Cowgill got 15 more at bats from April 15 through May 1 and was then demoted.
Cowgill was traded to the Angels for a 23 year old in Low-A. What’s Cowgill doing this year? Only batting .288/.362/.436 for an OPS of 798 for the Angels. Cowgill has posted 1.8 WAR with a 14.4 UZR/150 as the Angels’ right fielder in only 61 games. That 1.8 WAR for Cowgill would be 2nd on the Mets, after only Daniel Murphy (2.3) and ahead of Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson (1.6). Did I mention that Cowgill is only earning $506,000 this year?
I wrote in May that Chris Young was turning things around and that better results should come shortly for our outfielder. Little did I know that Terry Collins would destroy any chance that Young had to get into a groove.
Mets fans– don’t turn on Young. Even though he has struggled mightily so far, even his diminished performance (654 OPS) is superior to the alternatives of Eric Young (629 OPS), Andrew Brown (586 OPS), Matt Den Dekker (424 OPS) and others. He hasn’t been great this year, but he provides a higher ceiling and more potential than anyone on the Mets roster not named Lagares or Granderson.
Start Lagares every day. Start Granderson every day. Start Chris Young almost every day, and work in Abreu (who is old anyway), Campbell, and Eric Young as necessary. But fans, I implore you: don’t turn your scorn on a player who Collins benches every time he gets more than two total bases in a game.
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Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City and is LOSIN’ IT, PEOPLE
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