Ned Yost has made his decision for the Royals Game Four starter in the ALCS - Chris Young. Opposing Young is R.A. Dickey, the Jays third or fourth best starter. Young is probably the Royals fifth or sixth best starter with Jason Vargas being out.
The Royals were effectively in a bind even before the series began through some fault of their own. That fault is the ALDS going to five games. I mean...it's not really their fault, but it is a little bit. Going to five games means that they had to use their best pitcher (Johnny Cueto) in game five, then their third best in game one of the ALCS (Edinson Volquez) since they used Yordano Ventura (their second best) in game four of the ALDS. Before they even booked their tickets to Toronto really their hands were tied really.
Chris Young will start Game 4.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) October 18, 2015
Immediately people started asking him "why not Kris Medlen?" to which McCullough also provided an answer:
To those asking: Kris Medlen has not thrown a baseball in a game in 17 days, and Chris Young has been a better pitcher this season.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) October 18, 2015
So the Royals are concerned about pitching Kris Medlen it sounds like, but here's my question:
Why is Kris Medlen even on the roster then?
It's not like he's been on personal leave or he's been sick for the past few weeks. If the Royals are concerned about what would happen if he didn't pitch for a stretch of time, why wouldn't they just pitch him then? Chris Young threw four innings on October 8th in the ALDS. That could have easily been Kris Medlen.
Maybe the Royals expected to be blown out in the first two games and wanted to have Medlen for insurance? That seems kind of pessimistic, but why hasn't Medlen pitched in 17 days if that's a concern.
If the Royals win the ALCS and go onto the World Series then it seems like it's safe to assume that Medlen shouldn't be on the World Series roster since by that time he won't have pitched for 20+ days.
The Royals aren't really hurting for roster spots, and they can kinda afford to just carry Medlen, but it seems like he's just dead weight. Worst off, he's dead weight because the Royals made him dead weight.
But let's break down the second part of McCullough's tweet: Young has been the better pitcher.
By all the above metrics, Medlen has been better than Young. Some by a little, some by a lot, but by all Medlen is better.
McCullough also provided some context of how Young has done against some select Blue Jays players:
Chris Young v. Blue Jays: 1. Josh Donaldson: .063/.063/.063. 2. Jose Bautista: .188/.278/.250. 3. Troy Tulowitzki: .182/.400/.182— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) October 18, 2015
We know that pitcher vs batter matchups are basically pure noise and the importance is more towards general platoon splits than how X batter did against Y pitcher on a Tuesday in June.
Another thing of note is how far back those matchups go.
Young vs Troy Tulowitzki:
Young vs Josh Donaldson
Young vs Jose Bautista
So Young has faced Donaldson very recently and all of his matchups have been within the past two years. However the majority of both Young vs Bautista and Tulowitzki dates back to 2007.
Pitcher vs batter matchups are basically useless given their small sample size and it's worsened by the fact that the majority of the above results date back to eight years ago.
Tell em, Dave Cameron
Specific batter vs pitcher data is probably the worst use of statistics in the entire sport.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) October 3, 2011
Furthermore, Young is just a bad choice regardless really of the other options.
If you know Chris Young you know that he's an extreme flyball pitcher. As a matter of fact nobody has allowed more flyballs on a percentage basis than Chris Young the past two seasons and it isn't even close.
We also know that the Blue Jays hit a ton of flyballs themselves. Not quite as extreme as Young allows, but they are still in the top 10 of the MLB in flyballs on a percentage basis. The Blue Jays also feature two of the most flyball hitting players in baseball with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Maybe most importantly though is when a Blue Jays hitter hits a flyball, where does it land? For several Blue Jays players that ball lands on the other side of the fence.
Four Jays players appear on the list of roughly the top 20 HR/FB players in all of baseball. We know that (again thanks to The Book) flyball hitters do well against ground ball pitchers. We also know that flyball hitters do a bit better against flyball pitchers (this time thanks to Baseball Prospectus).
It's going to probably be safe to assume we're going to see a lot of flyballs when the Blue Jays are at the bat. Many top flyball hitters facing extreme flyball pitcher is a recipe for flyballs.
Maybe this matchup wouldn't be so bad if the game were taking place in say AT&T Park or PNC Park (two places that are death for home runs). Instead, this game is going to be played in Rogers Centre, one of the better places for balls to proverbially leave the yard. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the Blue Jays feature an almost exclusively right handed hitting lineup and Rogers Centre is one of the best parks for right handed home runs.
So who's the best choice?
Well ideally it would probably be Kris Medlen. He isn't a great choice, but he's better than Young against the rest of the league and against this Blue Jays team too. Medlen doesn't have the extreme fly ball profile as Young. One concern though is that Medlen does get a bit more groundballs than your average pitcher and as discussed earlier flyball hitters do well against groundball pitchers.
Of course... Medlen hasn't pitched in 17 days so he's unavailable to pitch I guess. Meanwhile Chris Young will have had gone 12 days since last pitching when he starts game four and apparently there's a big enough difference between 12 days and 19 days.
I always like to talk about decision vs result. Often the two don't match. If you walk into traffic to pick up a $100 bill and don't get hit, then yeah...it was a good result, but it was a bad decision and the outcome doesn't mean the decision was smart. I say this because Chris Young will probably throw 3-4 shutout and home run-less innings against the Blue Jays.