Red Sox 2017 Report Card: Outfielder Chris Young
Just last year, Chris Young was one of the most fearsome sluggers versus lefties in the game, but 2017 showed a shell of his former self.
.330/.393/.606 and .329/.410/.589. The first slash line is Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown season in 2012. The second is Chris Young in 2016 against left-handed pitchers.
For obvious reasons, Young was the go-to guy off the bench in 2016 when an outfielder needed a day off or a lefty reliever entered late in the game. On the whole, Young slashed .276/.352/.498 that season, good for a .850 OPS that would have ranked first in this year’s Red Sox lineup.
Coming into his age 33 season, there was little reason to expect too much regression. In a lefty-specialist role, Young had proven as efficient with the bat as anyone in the majors.
The opposite quickly became apparent – for some reason, the veteran outfielder could no longer hit southpaws. In a shocking case of reverse splits, Young slashed .259/.331/.462 against righties while posting a meager .200/.310/.280 line against lefties.
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In a lineup where two of three starting outfielders are lefties, having that power righty outfielder off the bench is essential (see: 2013 Jonny Gomes), and Young was unable to fill the role effectively.
In 2016, the contact he was making was well-above average, connecting on a 37.3 percent hard-hit rate and a 24.8 percent line drive rate. This culminated in a .326 BABIP that drove his power and batting average up.
In 2017, however, his hard-hit rate was down to 29.6 percent and his line drive rate similarly decreased to 19 percent, resulting in a below-average .275 BABIP.
The only thing that saved Young’s season from utter disaster was improved plate discipline. He saw improvements in both his walk rate and strikeout rate.
Ultimately, however, it was his power that the Red Sox were banking on, and that didn’t show up. A decrease by 70 points in ISO limited his effectiveness off the bench in a role Boston desperately needed in a power-starved lineup.
Next: Free Agent/Trade targets to replace Pedroia
Now a free agent, it seems highly unlikely that the Red Sox give Young another chance after his down year. His veteran leadership was surely appreciated on a young squad, but the power department is Dave Dombrowski’s biggest current concern, and the bench is a good place to start.