Defending Chris Young
Advanced stats may not think much of the veteran starter, but Young is currently the most-added pitcher in CBSSports.com leagues and for good reason.
No doubt due to a recent stretch of good outings and two scheduled starts in Fantasy Week 15 (July 7-13), Chris Young has more than doubled his ownership rate in CBSSports.com leagues and become the most-added pitcher over the past week. During that same span, two of our writers -- Chris Towers and R.J. White -- have taken to these pages to warn owners of the impending doom that awaits Young in his coming starts.
I'm here to tell you that Young was a nice pickup.
His ownership rate is currently 61 percent, so he is rostered in few mixed leagues deeper than 12 teams. Given that he is set for a two-start week in which he will face the Twins and Athletics at home, Young is not a bad use of a rotation spot in deeper leagues, and I'm actually starting him in a 12-team mixed points league this week. The start against the A's is a little scary, to be sure, but Young has already turned in several effective starts against good teams at Safeco Field this season, including one against Oakland.
As Chris and R.J. pointed out in their posts, Young is not without his flaws. He's a contact pitcher who has below-average control and extreme flyball tendencies. That can be a dangerous combination, and that's reflected in his FIP and xFIP, which both suggest that he is fortunate to have an ERA below 5.00, much less one that is approaching 3.00. Young has only had to make three of his 16 starts in good home run venues, and he allowed five homers over 19 innings in those games. Finally, Young could lose his starting role within a few weeks, once James Paxton (lat) is ready to come off the disabled list.
While a typical pitcher would, in fact, be lucky to have a 3.11 ERA with Young's strikeout, walk and flyball rates, he is not really a typical pitcher. Because he has spent much of his career pitching his home games at PETCO Park (the pre-2013, more spacious version), Young's flyball tendencies have been mitigated, and he has perennially put up ultra-low BABIP rates and sub-4.00 ERAs. He enjoys the same type of advantages at Safeco Field, and to his own credit, he has been consistently great at inducing popups. His current infield fly-to-flyball rate of 21 percent (per BaseballReference.com) matches his career rate and is far above the major league norm of 12 percent. While Young is likely due to regress from his current .207 BABIP, he may not decline nearly as much as what that rate alone would suggest.
According to FanGraphs.com, the Mariners have had the majors' sixth-best outfield defense, both in terms of UZR and range rating, so they have played their role in turning a high rate of flyballs into outs. Safeco Field has also done its share by containing those flies, as Young has allowed only four home runs there over 49 1/3 innings. And don't give the schedule-makers too much credit, as Young has handled the powerful A's, Tigers, Angels, Astros and Indians nicely in home starts this season.
There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Young is tailor-made for his team and ballpark, so he stands to turn in a couple of productive starts in Week 15. Don't ditch Young just yet, though. When the M's return from the All-Star break, they will open with a three-game series at pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium, then return home for a seven-game homestand. The Mariners also have two weeks in August that consist solely of home games.
Maybe Young gets booted from the rotation soon enough to miss much of that schedule, but keep in mind that Roenis Elias has not been especially consistent or effective. While Young has been putting up a 2.66 ERA and 1.01 WHIP since the last week of May, Elias has posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.08 ERA over the same period. Yes, that's a nice WHIP that Elias has given his owners, but with a 6 percent popup rate over that span, it looks far more suspicious than Young's. Even with some regression, Young could be better than Elias going forward, earning himself some job security.
Despite some unimpressive peripherals, Young is not overowned, even with his recent surge in popularity. He could have a few more two-start weeks in good venues still to come, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if a few more owners picked him up when that happens.
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