26 August 2012
Delmon Young homered in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game against the Angels to provide a bit of extra insurance in the eventual 5-2 win. The homer, along with an earlier double, gave Young four extra base hits in the last two games. With Miguel Cabrera hobbled for the series (and out completely on Sunday) the extra thump in the lineup was greatly appreciated.
But Delmon’s hot bat hasn’t been limited to just these two games against the Angels, he’s been on a relative tear for the entire month of August. Here’s his line (in 86 plate appearances): .309/.337/.506. His walk rate still hasn’t been any good (just 3.4%), but his strikeout rate has been low (9.3%, about half of his career rate) and he’s actually been driving the ball. Young has made a career out of people mistaking him for a power hitter (his career isolated power is only .139), but he’s been true slugger for the month with an ISO just shy of .200.
If this is what Delmon could be, he’d be a valuable hitter, even at the DH position. Now, I’m well past the point of believing that he will suddenly morph into a plus bat, but it wouldn’t take a boost in BABIP or HR/FB rate to do it – he has the necessary hitting tools already – but what it would take is an adjustment in either his walk or strikeout rates.Either one would require an augmented level of patience – an aspect of the game that Young has failed miserably at over the course of his career. He wouldn’t seem to be one that could ever draw a significant number of walks. That would involve taking lots of close pitches (even strikes) in order to work the count deep enough to earn the free pass. That would take a 180 degree change from his current approach to hitting, and that would be an awful lot to ask.
I think it’s more likely that he finds a way to reduce his strikeout rate (which is no worse than league average already) if he was ever to become an above average hitter. Reducing the k-rate would still require more patience – again, something that’s counter to his very nature – but it wouldn’t necessarily involve working the count as much as eliminating the swings at all the garbage.
This is exactly what he’s shown this month. It didn’t take a massive spike in BABIP (only .304 this month) or HR%, but he did knock the strikeout rate significantly. His 9.3% this month is super low, but not necessarily unsustainable. Lots of players end up with strikeout rates in the 9% range (and even lower), but it would definitely put him in the upper tier of k-proof players.
I’m not saying he’ll ever become this type of player – good money is on him continuing to be the same slightly-below to perhaps-average hitter that we’ve seen for years now, but if he ever was to kick his abilities up a notch, this is probably how he’d do it.
But it’s almost certainly too late for Delmon and the Tigers anyway. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, and with Victor Martinez due to return to action by next season, there’s really no spot for him on the team (again, not that we would want him back here anyway). But even though his odds of donning the “Olde English D” after this year are slim (and hopefully none), I’m still rooting for him to become the best version himself possible. At least for the next two months anyway.
Matt Snyder writes about Baseball, Football, and College Basketball. He can be found online as the creator and editor of Forever Faithful, the editor of The Tigers Den, a contributor to Call To The Pen, and a contributor to SideLion Report. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.