After days of rumblings, the Chris Young everyone in Kansas City grew to love over the past year has agreed to terms to return to Kansas City, according to Jon Heyman. The possible terms were first reported by Joel Sherman over the weekend.
#Royals are close to reunion with RHP Chris Young on 2-yr deal. Believed in $10-$11M range. Expected done by end of Meetings— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 6, 2015
While his profile might leave him exposed in the more homer-friendly confines of a park like Coors Field, Great American Ballpark, or whatever they call Rangers Ballpark now, Young clearly fits in ideally at a park like Kauffman Stadium and with a defense like the Royals', barring a paradigm shift in the way the organization is run.
Much of the reason for Young only being able to command a two-year deal on the open market after a second-straight season in which he sported an ERA comfortably below 4.00 (3.06!) is his long history of injuries that kept him off the field for anywhere between a huge chunk and the virtual entirety of every year between 2008 and 2013, though much of that time missed was due to thoracic outlet syndrome as detailed by the Star's Andy McCullough (RIP) here.
While his questionable record of health explains why he signed for just two year, it is his particular set of [undervalued] skills that helped contribute to what is likely a steal for a second straight offseason for Dayton Moore. Yes, the $675K base-salary that Young agreed to last March (which increased considerably with incentives hit) was considerably less than what he got this time around, but Young's extreme profile makes comparing him to other pitchers nearly impossible.
As has been discussed in these pages often, Chris Young is the most extreme fly-ball pitcher in baseball. This owes largely to the fact that the man stands nearly seven feet tall, though his pitching style is anything but accidental.
Of pitchers with at least 700 innings thrown since 2006*, Chris Young's 56.4 FB% is nearly nine percentage points higher than the next highest pitcher, Jered Weaver at 47.6%.
*The reason for starting at 2006 is that this is the first year in which Chris Young became the Chris Young we know now. He scrapped the curveball, replaced it with the slider, and started induced 50%+ FB-rates.
His .239 BABIP since 2006 is the lowest mark of any pitcher with at least 700 IP (a mark designed to eliminate relievers from the discussion) by .022, Marco Estrada at .261. This, of course, owes itself largely to that fact that of batted balls, fly balls enjoy just a .207 BA. For comparison, grounders yield a .239 BA and liners a .685 BA. Yes, fly balls lend themselves to a .335 wOBA, compared to just .220 for ground balls (for more batted-ball information go here).
Of course not all fly balls are born equal. Using the same 700 inning minimum since 2006, Young's IFFB% of 15.3% is higher than anyone else by 1.6 percentage points (Ted Lilly, with Wade Davis 0.1 behind him).
Now that gap in IFFB% may not seem that huge, but it is important to keep in mind the fact that IFFB% is the percentage of fly balls induced that are infield fly balls. Young has the highest percentage of fly balls that end up as a virtually automatic out (infield fly balls) and induces the most fly balls by a wide margin.
To put this into scope, over the past two seasons, Chris Young led all pitchers with 73 IFFB induced. R.A. Dickey--another outlier for different reasons--was next closest with 68. Without context, that seems pretty close. Of course, Dickey needed 430 innings to induce 68 IFFB. Young needed just 288.1 innings to record 73. When turning IFFB into a rate stat, the leaderboard for the past two seasons (min. 150 IP) looks like this:
By the time you get to number 18 on the list, you are over a full IFFB less per nine than Young.
Since 2006, Young is sixth in total IFFB at 240, within 40 of each man ahead of him on the list but Jered Weaver, despite throwing at least 798.1 fewer innings than any of those pitchers. In two separate seasons, Young induced at least 40 IFFB. Broken into a rate stat, his 2.21 IFFB/9 since 2006 is 0.46 better than the next closest man with at least 700 IP (Tim Wakefield, 1.75 IFFB/9).
When looking at pitchers with at least 150 IP pitched in the last two seasons in terms of the non-HR things they can control using the formula (K+IFFB)/(BB+HBP), Young's 2.49 mark puts him just behind Carlos Martinez, Eric Stults, Lance Lynn, Homer Bailey, and Francisco Liriano and right ahead of Travis Wood, Tyson Ross, Brett Anderson, Aaron Harang, Mike Bolsinger, and Yordano Ventura. Less than fifteen spots ahead of Young on this list are guys like Garrett Richards, Michael Wacha, and Sonny Gray. That 2.49 mark also puts him ahead of Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, and Jeremy Guthrie. Any of these pitchers who signed deals in free agency signed for considerably more than Young is getting. Only the 60-day disabled Jason Vargas ranked ahead of him from the pool of Royals' starting pitchers (wild card Kris Medlen excepted for lack of playing time).
While his HR/FB% (8.1% career, 8.3% 2014-2015) looks palatable at first glance, it too needs to be brought to scale against his astronomically high FB%. Basically, it needs to be looked at as a rate stat. The 1.31 HR/9 Young notched over the last two years certainly hurts his cause and doesn't come into play in the figuring of his FIP, but finding his true-talent level using any of the publicly available metrics is a near impossibility because of how hard his skill-set is to consider in the calculation of these metrics.
While finding his true-talent level is problematic for us when we talk about Young, that fact probably helps the Royals out in the end. How does one account for the odd duck that is Chris Young? Apparently a lot of teams are unsure of how to go about that. How does one weigh his unique profile and tendencies against orthodox baseball thinking or against the ways by which the sabermetric community has come to comparatively analyze players? Clearly a metric like fWAR is going to underrate Young by the sheer nature of not being able to fully account for how much less likely a batted ball is going to land for a hit for Young than it would with any other pitcher. After all, how does one account for a .239 BABIP over the last ten years when no one else is particularly close to that mark?
Whatever limitations we might have in attempting to make sense of Chris Young, his status as the furthest outlying of outliers certainly helps Dayton Moore and the Royals out when it comes to getting bang for their buck with the gigantic Princetonian. That they're paying less than the cost of 1 WAR for a free agent fairly likely to give them surplus value cannot be deemed anything less than win.
UPDATE 4:24 CST: Andy McCullough tweeted the following update:
Heard Chris Young passed his physical, so deal should be announced soon. The contract includes incentives that could make total value $12M.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) December 7, 2015
He had previously stated that the deal was rumored to be for a guaranteed $11.5M. Given the small amount of incentives included if that is the theoretical case, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that the guaranteed number is closer to the lower end of the $10-$11M range initially reported. Updates will be added as needed.
UPDATE 4:36 CST: Done deal.
#Royals announce that they've signed RHP Chris Young to a 2-year deal with a mutual option for the 2018 season.— Royals (@Royals) December 7, 2015
Mutual option. Of course.
UPDATE 5:12 CT: Andy McCullough provides the details.
Chris Young's deal: $4.25 million in 2016, $5.75 million in 2017 and a $1.5 million buyout of an $8 million mutual option in 2018.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) December 7, 2015
I'm guessing that option is not picked up.
The numbers crunched above were pulled from the wonderful world of FanGraphs. Go there. Fool around.