Of Chris Young and Barbie Dolls
Simplicity itself, baby


Q.  So this meatball draws a grrroooooaaaan from Dr. D?

A.  No, we're pleased to announce that you guessed wrong again.  Ya saps, ya's.

Chris Young is about the kewlest placeholder we coulda come up with.  I'm really looking forward to watching him pitch.  For three games.

Edit to add, let's hope he's a placeholder.  :: flip ::

Edit to add again, unless that stuff about 88 MPH is accurate.  :: flop back again ::


Q.  What's so kewl?

A.  First of all, if you haven't read this article rat cheer, you have no right to watch a Chris Young game.  It reads in part:


The length of most pitchers stride—the distance between the rubber and where they plant their front foot—is about 80% of their height. That alone would give Young a longer stride than other pitchers. But he also lunges forward to a greater degree than most.

Warthen estimated Young's stride to be about eight feet, about 115% of his height. "That's a long stride," he said.

As a result, the time a hitter has to see the ball out of Young's hand and react to it is significantly diminished. In 2009, Baseball Prospectus conducted an in-depth study of a single fastball thrown by Young, using pitch f/x trajectory data to calculate its flight time. It found that the pitch, which was clocked at 84.1 mph, had a perceived velocity of 92.1 mph to the hitter.


Q.  That's, um, +8 MPH.  This would be an added 10% velocity.  This would mean he stepped 5.5 feet farther forward than other pitchers (who throw from 55 feet).  This would be "preposterous."  

A.  It's hotly debated, such as in the comments to this Fangraphs thread.

Want to decide for your ownself who's right?  Just watch this vid rat cheer.  First pitch has a "pop time" of 92 MPH -- look at the gun.  84 MPH.  Second pitch has a "pop time" of 95 MPH.  Gun?  87 MPH.

It is flippin' hilarious.  Watch the vid.


Q.  Still, 10% optical illusion factor?

A.  It might not even be an optical illusion.

  • The average pitcher strides 5 feet and lets the ball go from 55 feet.
  • Young strides 8, and lets it go from 52 feet.  That's a stride 60% longer than other pitchers'.
  • If you realize that the hitter makes his decision based ONLY on the first 50% of the ball's flight, then ...
  • ... yes.  The batter has 22 feet of "decision time" compared to his usual 25 feet.  3 feet out of 25 = 8 MPH.

Yup.  Young is apparently cutting down the perception time by 10-15%.  Not through illusion.  Through shortening the physical distance.

No major league hitter can make contact off a female softball pitcher, you realize.


Q.  He's a 2-pitch pitcher.  Does Dr. D have any opinions about the merit of such twirlers?

A.  ...

At 0:42 on the Marlins video, you get to see his slider.  Big fun.  If you just joined us, 2-pitch guys have an exponentially easier time executing their games on a nightly basis.

Jeff Sullivan did an article on Fangraphs not long ago ... he found that about 25% of ML starters (check me on the exact number) are functionally 2-pitch guys.  And that, as a group, they accounted for a higher than expected WAR return -- they are slightly better pitchers than other guys.

I mean, there are about as many 2-pitch starters as there are lefty starters.  Yet, professional baseball scouts still seem oblivious to the idea that such starters exist.

Personally I prefer them.  James Paxton, as in.  Roenis Elias, as in.  So Chris Young is kewl by me.


Q.   You said something about Barbie dolls.

A.  In laboratory testing, human males react strongly to fictional women with Barbie figures even though such women would be infertile.  This runs contrary to the theory of biology, where the male of the species should theoretically seek the females that produce the most, and the strongest, children.

The current theory is that the human brain reacts in a friendly way to things that it can process instantly, without thought.  Men process a 42-18-36 figure as "female."  Women process Arnold Schwarzenegger as "male" and they do so on a subconscious level - they process it easily.

We LIKE things that are very, very simple to understand.  And we should.  We can react to them easily and accurately.  5-year-old girls like Barbie, too, you know.


Chris Young is a rotational Barbie Doll.  He's The Guy With the Optical Illusion Fastball.  You can analyze him very accurately and easily.  This situation is acceptable to SSI.


Q.  Does Young's limited repertoire cost him?

A.  I'm sure he is vulnerable to lefties.  What USSM said would be the case on Pineda, that actually is the case on Young.  Sometimes the generalization fits -- very often it does.

The Rangers have Choo leading off and Prince Fielder hitting #3.  I hope they don't start Chris Young in Texas.


On the other hand, Chris Young is probably baseball's most extreme fly ball pitcher; he gets about 20% grounders (!!).  His line drive rate is also LOW.  

Safeco could be markedly to his advantage, but Thirteen's question about defensive outfields?  Asked and answered.  Get you Saunders in right field that day, babe.


Q.  OK, take off your scout's hat, and your historian/pattern recog hat, and put on your sabermetrician's hat.  What is Young, sabermetrically?

A.  The pre-2010 Young was a star.  That guy is irrelevant.

The post-2010 Chris Young, the 84 MPH guy, gets 6.0 strikeouts, 3.0 walks, and 1.2 homers.  So, he is .

Some years the popups don't go over the fence, and he has a 105 ERA+.  Some years the popups go out, and he has an 85 ERA+.  The difference is mostly just luck.

He's an aging innings eater.  :: shrug ::  As with Joe Saunders, he's liable to rip off 15 starts worthy of the All-Star team, and he's liable to rip off 25 starts that make even him feel bad about cashing his check.


Q.  There's NO best case scenario?

A. They say his velocity is "coming back some."

If he gets back to a physical 87-88 on the gun, he's probably back to his Padres days, at least for a while.


Q.  Are pitchers athletes?

A. ... 

As much as chessplayers are.  At least.


Q.  So Randy Wolf Sure. Showed. Them.

A.  Sometimes we all need a re-calibration, don't we?  As Jim Bouton wrote, "Sometimes I run across the outfield grass and I forget to tingle."

The power execs who cut Dr. D from the traveling squad, they always figured they could find somebody to take Dr. D's wages later on.  They were right.

Chris Young needed a job.  The Mariners were offering.  Being a hardcase, that only hurts a GM sometimes.  Not very often.


Q.  What's this about Young's rib surgery?

A.  Check G-Money in the Shout Box.

Spring training this year, 10 IP, nine strikeouts, four walks.  Like we sez, Young's game is not difficult for him to reiterate on short notice.


Q.  So, as 3-start pitchers go, this one's pretty fun.

A.  You're supposed to be asking questions, not making speeches.  :- /


Q.  Supposing that, after a year off, he's fresh and throwing the stuffing out of the ball.  End of April, he's 3-1, 2.79.  Taijuan is throwing 98 MPH in Tacoma and is The New Felix.  You do what?

A.  The rotation then:

  • Felix
  • Iwakuma
  • K-Pax, an ROY candidate, we'll assume
  • Erasmo, in 20K, 2BB, 0HR mode, we'll assume
  • Chris Young throwing BB's
  • Taijuan ready to roll, throwing 98 in AAA

I'll gingerly guess that if ALL the homegrown pitchers are smokin', then after they hit on Taijuan's service time, then they flip Young and go with Zduriencik's kids.

But mebbe not.


Edit to add, Young gets $1.25 million guaranteed (!) with incentives to $3.5 million.  I hope that doesn't mean dire things for either of the three kids.

As a placeholder, Young is vastly preferable to Saunders or Wolf.  As a guy who robs Erasmo Ramirez of 20 starts, at the same time forcing a max-defense outfield every start, he's a pain in the keister.


Q.  Would YOU have signed Chris Young, right now, if you were GM?

A.  Would I?


Q.  Would YOU.

A.  I would have, yes.   Chris Young would be throwing #5 for Dr. D's Mariners this April.

Although Blake Beavan is now going to drown himself in the shower.

I'd sign Young with the clear understanding that if all the in-house pitchers are throwing lights-out, and Taijuan is too, then we're going to have to find him another org.  And the loose understanding that I might skip his turn in Texas.

Does this guy get 25 starts, guaranteed, as long as his ERA is 4?


Q.  How long would the M's like to forestall Taijuan's service time in 2014?

A.  Throw it open to the floor?





...slap me silly!
I really thought you were going to grudgingly except the move as rational but be annoyed that they went with another guy living on guile and deception. You never cease to surprise me. :)

RockiesJeff's picture

I do think Yogi Berra would give a thumbs up to the "Rotational Barbie Doll"! LOL! I used to watch Young toast the fastball killing Rockies in fly ball SD. Let Young play there first three holes and then serve as a caddy for Walker the rest of the round!


Young does not displace a ready to go Taijuan. Taijuan is, well, ready to go! Chris Young gets a 4-6 start guarantee....and probably an, "Atta Boy!" after that. Where he could get more starts is if/when the next guy gets dinged a bit.
You know that he has NEVER appeared out of the bullpen in a MLB game. Weird. 159 games, 159 starts.
Wanna bet that the streak ends with the Mariners?
But I like this acquire. He's a cheap, pretty band-aid, one who can help this team. He's WAY cooler than Wolf or Baker.
Two thumbs up.


Sure hope so.  Is that the consensus, that they would guarantee him $1.25 and then take him out of the rotation if he's solid but the kids are better?
That IS odd that he has never pitched in relief.  He's got an excellent repertoire for 2-4 IP long man.  Just excellent.


According to this link pointed out by Jeff Sullivan.
If Young were able to get back to 87-89 MPH, he'd be real good.  From 2004 to 2008 -- the only difference then was that he threw 87-89 MPH -- he was 42-28 with a 3.72 ERA with 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
It's not clear to me why, if Young was throwing 88 MPH in Florida, why he was available to the Mariners.  The Nationals just cut him?  And then he went out and grabbed a $3.5M deal on the open market?!

Rob's picture

I think the answer is easy. Young moves to the bullpen in the Noesi/Beavan slot until someone inevitably breaks something.


Young is better insurance than Wolf or Baker: A bit more spendy, but with a way lower deductible.
But the deeper meaning, I think, is that Jack Z. thinks this team is worth buying better insurance. I think we will make another move, earlier rather than later. If the vintage Young shows up then a guy like E-Ram may be expendable as part of a package for a basher. With the Cuban in the pipeline (and all those Pikes, etc) we're pretty pitcher rich...or about as pitcher rich as you can be.


In Fister's start today, he strained his Latissimis Dorsi muscle in his back... meaning could start on the DL...
Also, for those who care, Harang hit hard is the headline in Atlanta...


To be fair, Young only got 1.25 million upfront. He can make up to 5 M total if he pitches all season in the rotation, but if we use him for 5 starts and then bullpen him or cut him, he gets 1.25 M. So that tells you that Z is not a cheapskate...he's just a choosy shopper. :)


Warthen guessed he had a stride of 8 ft and that's ridiculous. The length of a human's legs run around 51%. Even if you're super generous and say he's some kind of freak who's 55% legs, the absolute longest he could get (while doing the splits) is ~7.5 ft. Therefore, it's physically impossible for him.
To my eyes, he doesn't seem to have some extra-long stride relative to height, but I'm only going by the video you posted up. Assuming he does have a very long stride that's ~90% instead of 80, it would be a little over 6 ft. At that length, he would be adding ~2 mph relative to a guy who's 6'-6'3".


I long ago burned my GMZ fan-boy t-shirt, but gotta give props when they are earned. Kudos to GMZ on a great pick-up. GMZ just increased the M's talent base with a commitment of only $1.25M. To coin an original phrase - you can never have enough pitching. Bet the Nats wish they could have Young back wth Fister going down.


By the time they release the ball, the back foot is way in front of the 60'6" point.

Also, the typical shot of Young releasing the ball shows his front foot seemingly threatening to land on the grass.

Also, at SSI we try not to ridicule.  I'm sure you meant it figuratively, but just the same.
:: daps ::

Lee Cousins's picture

We seem to have a few players knocking on the door of making the team, like a Beaven, Noesi, Franklin why can't we trade for another outfielder with some upside?...hey ya think Juan Pierre is still available? you know I'm just not alright with the way we are.

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