An idle Chris Young observation

Chris Young had a DIPS ERA of 4.50 last season.  

That means that, based on his peripherals (K rate, walk rate, homer rate), he would be expected to have posted a 4.50 ERA last season.  That would have been the equivalent, pitching for San Diego last year, of a 94 ERA+.

His actual ERA, of course, was 3.46, which gave him a DIPS% (DIPS ERA/regular ERA) of 1.30, the highest DIPS% in baseball last year.  

This shouldn't necessarily be surprising...San Diego had the best team Defensive Efficiency Rating in baseball last year, finishing ahead of second place Detroit.

And Young, as an extreme flyball pitcher, especially benefitted from the Padres' outfield defense...Chris Dial's Probabilistic Modeling ranked Dave Roberts and Brian Giles as the best defensive left fielder and right fielder, respectively, in the N.L. last year, while Mike Cameron was among the top centerfielders.  Not surprising, since Giles was (as Dial points out) a pretty good defensive centerfielder just a couple of years ago, while Roberts is a centerfielder who was playing left field because of the defensively superior Cameron manning center.

So Young's outstanding 2006 season, with an ERA of 3.46 and an ERA+ of 122, is even more context-driven than usual.  Remarkably, despite moving to a weaker league, and a pitcher's park, in the league where he didn't have to face a DH, Young's walk rate and strikeout rate both got worse, and his homer rate went up.  

But Young's ERA dropped by .80 because in 2005, playing in front of a mediocre at best defensive outfield, he allowed 161 non-homer hits in 196 2/3 IP, while in 2006, playing in front of the best defensive outfield in baseball, he allowed 108 non-homer hits in 211 2/3 innings.  That's a drop from a rate of .818 non-homer hits per inning in 2005 to .510 non-homer hits per inning in 2006.

The change in extra base hits highlights that even more...Young allowed just 25 doubles and triples in 2006, an incredibly low amount, particularly compared to his 28 homers allowed.  No other major league pitcher allowed fewer doubles than homers last year, much less doubles and triples combined.

Young allowed just 20 doubles last season...only one other qualifying pitcher allowed less than 30 last season, and that pitcher, Scott Olsen, allowed 28.

That is the second lowest total since 2001 (Kerry Wood allowed just 17 doubles in 2001), and the only pitchers to come close to that since then are Johan Santana in 2004, who allowed 22 doubles, and Brandon Webb and Kevin Brown in 2003, allowing 22 and 21, respectively.

And it is completely at odds with his 2005 performance, when Young allowed 36 doubles and 3 triples against just 19 homers.

So after allowing just over twice as many doubles and triples in 2005 as he did homers, Young then allows fewer doubles and triples than homers in 2006 (the only pitcher in the majors to do so), while playing in front of the best defensive outfield in baseball, and posts a much better ERA than anyone expected.

That's huge.  And that is, most likely, not a reflection of some change in ability by Young...rather, it is a change in who Young is pitching in front of.

And it also suggests that, had Young pitched for the Rangers in 2006, he'd have posted a much different ERA+ than the 122 he put up in San Diego.

Let me conclude this by saying that this isn't offered as a defense of the Awful Adam Eaton trade, or a justification for the Rangers letting Young go.  I'd feel much better if Chris Young were still here, and in the 2007 rotation.

But I think it is also important to point out that, had Young stayed in Texas rather than going to San Diego, it is extremely unlikely that he would have done as well -- even park- and league-adjusted -- as he did for the Padres.

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