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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Delmon Young Effect

by: Chris Creighton
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Ready for the Five Spot?
Charlie Manuel is, if not anything else, loyal to his players and his gut-feelings when it comes to filling out the Phillies lineup card every day. If it's his dedication to Jimmy Rollins batting lead-off over the years or leaving Cliff Lee in for 120+ pitches when he might be cooked, he certainly honors a hunch for better or worse.

So it should come to no surprise there exists a strong belief in his mind that Delmon Young is the right-handed bat to protect Ryan Howard in the five-spot. While maybe later this season that could eventually be true, the Delmon Young Effect has been plaguing the lineup over the past month after his return from an ankle injury. It's well known that any batter entering into the MLB season a month late due to injury--with a slight out-of-shapedness--is going to play a little catch-up baseball at the plate and Young is certainly not an exception to the rule. But, the Phillies skipper continues to trot him out behind Howard with the hope that he'll return to 2010 form where he batted .298 as a doubles machine (46) en route to 112 RBIs for the Minnesota Twins. However, it should be known that he did most of his damage batting sixth and seventh in the lineup that year.

Delmon Young 2010 / Minnesota Twins
Batting 5th7110183311319.254.280.423.7031.300
Batting 6th10714399323614.364.400.533.9331.396
Batting 7th2333161178481234.262.295.438.7337.268
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2013.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some Chollie, but at a key point in the season where neither the Nationals or Braves have pulled away from the rest of the division, the time is most definitely not now for loyalty to a hunch rather than to the rest of the team. The insertion of Delmon Young into the five-spot (which is the only place in the lineup he's batted this season) has triggered a disruptive tremor which has been felt among probably the three most important batters in this Phillies lineup: Michael Young, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

Delmon Young / Game Log 2013
1Apr 30CLEL,2-1431211.667.7501.6672.417
2May 1CLEL,0-630000.333.500.8331.333
3May 2MIAW,7-230000.222.364.556.919
4May 3MIAW,4-130100.250.357.583.940
5May 4MIAL,0-230000.200.294.467.761
6May 5MIAL,2-1430000.167.250.389.639
7May 6SFGW,6-220001.150.250.350.600
8May 8SFGL,3-430001.130.214.304.519
9May 9ARIL,1-240200.185.250.333.583
10May 11ARIW,3-120100.207.306.379.685
11May 12ARIW,4-240201.242.325.424.749
12May 14CLEW,6-240000.216.295.378.674
13May 15CLEL,4-1041200.244.313.390.703
14May 17CINW,5-330000.227.308.364.671
15May 18CINL,0-1040000.208.286.333.619
Generated 5/19/2013.

Ryan Howard: Before Delmon Young returned from his rehab assignment on April 30th, Ryan Howard had improved his batting average from .241 on April 17th to .286 on April 28th only striking out eight times in that 10-game span. In the 17 games which followed, Howard's average has dropped significantly from .286 to .245 with a whopping 23 K's.

Michael Young, Howard and
Michael Young: It's no coincidence that with Michael Young batting fifth behind The Big Piece, the offense was beginning to show signs of a rebirth in 2013. During the same 10-game span as Howard, Michael Young saw his steady-Eddie average rise to .352 on April 28th with an OBP of .418. Since his move to the 3-spot after Delmon Young's return, he has fallen to .300/.395.

Chase Utley: Chase was raking in April and from the 17th through the 28th, he stayed on pace to hit around the .300 mark arriving in Cleveland with a .296 average, a .340 OBP and five home runs while batting third in the  lineup. Since then, he's been batting 2nd and is now carrying a .268 average with just 2 home runs and a .325 OBP. 

It seems clear to me that it's time for Charlie to demote Delmon to either the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup in order to find his stroke after missing the first month of the 2013 season. With his struggles out of the gate, the big three haven't been seeing enough tasty pitches without the patient presence of Michael Young, who is a MUCH tougher out than his unrelated namesake. This is not to say that I don't think Delmon Young can become a better contributor to this Phillies offense, I just think that the fifth spot in this lineup is far too important with the Braves and Nationals still within a reasonable striking distance. Simply put, there are better spots for him to get his reps in a few rungs down the ladder.

The Phillies enter today's action somehow only 4.5 games out of first place in the National League East Division and only five games out of the wild card spot. Is it too early to talk about the wild card race? Yes, maybe, but if they are to consider themselves legitimate playoff contenders rather than salary sellers at the trading deadline, the time is now to make a change in order for this lineup to click. Because I don't think any of us want to start reading about Chase Utley trade rumors in June or July.


Today's lineup via Todd Zolecki finds Delmon Young and Howard getting a day off:


Adam Solowiei said...

Nice post. Well done and informative.

Chris C said...

Thanks, Adam. greatly appreciated. Of course, Delmon goes out and smokes the ball in two straight. I'll eat crow if it means he's found his stroke

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