Chris Young looks like he was built in a lab by people who hate baseball. Let's make him 7 feet tall, give him an 84 mph fastball, make him old, name him Young, and let this stupid sport burn itself to the ground. As can happen, what was meant for harm has been used for good. In spite of a shoulder that is actually made of paper mache and a delivery that is more trebuchet than trained baseball pitcher, Chris Young has broken the nerds' precious formulas and posted a career 92 ERA-. James Shields has a career 92 ERA-. James Shields signed a contract that guaranteed him 77 million dollars. Chris Young signed a contract that guaranteed him 700 thousand dollars. Clayton Kershaw earned 700 thousand dollars while you were reading this paragraph. If I told you I did the math, and this was actually true, you would believe me.
Many people believe that left handed people are more creative and free spirited. Fewer people believe that left handed people are very good at hitting baseballs pitched by Chris Young, but they are also correct. Here is how left and right handed batters have fared vs Chris Young over the last two years.
2014-2015 Regular Season data from Fangraphs
|K%||BB%||HR/9||BABIP||wOBA||Who is that wOBA?|
This seems to be good news for fans of a team starting Chris Young against Toronto in game 4 of the ALCS. Toronto seems to have found the right handed hitter tree and plucked it clean. What an uncreative and uptight group they must be. However, right now you're probably thinking, "A large amount of that RHB vs LHB difference is due to that insanely low .184 BABIP vs RHB, and BABIP is extremely unstable in small sample sizes, and pitchers have very little control over it." You are correct. That's great! It is good to be correct. However, Chris Young does not care.
By design, FIP is an imperfect formula, and Chris Young is its perfect foil. Chris Young is an extreme fly ball pitcher, and FIP punishes extreme fly ball pitchers for serving up a generous number of dingers without rewarding them for the fact that fly balls that don't go over the wall are pretty great. Fly balls that don't clear the fence are outs more often than ground balls are, and pop-ups result in outs or hilarity 100% of the time. Chris Young has sustained a career .247 BABIP and 0.7 FIP-ERA difference by throwing 84 mph belt high fastballs which hitters just hit up into the sky.
You probably already know about Chris Young's relationship with FIP. It's been written about before. You're probably also still skeptical of the fact that his BABIP vs LHP is a reasonably low .261, while his BABIP vs RHP is a relatively comfortable blood alcohol level. If Chris Young is influencing BABIP for RHBs more than he is for LHBs, we would expect his strange batted ball distributions to be even more extreme for RHBs. Let's see.
2014-2015 Regular Season data from Fangraphs
|Line Drive%||Fly Ball%||% of Fly Balls in Infield|
Over the last two years, Chris Young has allowed fewer line drives to RHBs while generating more Fly Balls and pop-ups. Does this explain the entire BABIP difference? Honestly, I doubt it. Batted ball rates, especially line drive rate, can be very unstable, and a .184 BABIP seems too crazy, impossibly, low to be accurately indicative of a true talent skill. What this does show, is that at least to some extent, Chris Young has caused RHBs to do weird, BABIP things more often than he has caused LHBs to do those weird BABIP things.
You may also be wondering why I've focused on only the last 2 years for all of these tables. You may be the skeptical sort who checked Chris Young's platoon splits for the rest of his career and noticed that this extreme split is not present. Only analyzing the last 2 years sounds like cherry picking the data points that support a hypothesis. It is cherry picking, but this cherry is super ripe. Last year, Young did what all old people love to do and made dramatic changes. He started throwing his slider all the dang time. Jeff Sullivan wrote for Fangraphs about this phenomenon when it began last year, and it's continued into 2015. Young now throws his slider nearly 50% of the time against RHBs. It's reasonable to assume that a new platoon split could appear when the use of a pitch that itself has a dramatic platoon split is increased. Is this why Young increased the use of his slider? I don't know, but he probably does. Chris Young went to Princeton, and I went to a college where the tennis coach also taught math, so his opinion should be valued over mine.
Does this mean Chris Young will cut down the Blue Jay's right handed hitters and hand the Royals a game 4 win? Of course not, but it does perhaps provide some justification for the Royals' controversial decision to start Young over Medlen. Medlen performed respectably in his game 3 mop-up innings, so maybe the Royals will regret that his performance didn't occur in more meaningful circumstances, but it's too late to change that now. It's always too late to make the best decisions. Chris Young will make his second career postseason start in game 4 of the ALCS. He can go into this offseason as a playoff hero or as an instrument of #Yosted, but the one thing history has shown us for sure is that either way, no one is going to pay him.