It’s the time of year when our attention turns to individual performances, broken records, historic accomplishments.
I think back to 1980 when George Brett flirted with a .400 season. It was an amazing accomplishment, one that we watched with daily fascination. July, August, September. Could he possibly do it?
We watched Pete Rose in 1978 attempt to break DiMaggio’s consecutive game hitting streak. (And if he had to do it over again, Gene Garber claims that he’d throw Rose yet another change-up.)
And, oh yes, the baseball world was captivated and charmed by Mark McGuire’s attempt to top 61 home runs in a season. Don’t deny it. We ate that shit up.
So today I’m sitting here wondering:
Can Chris Young hit .200 while still getting more than 400 PAs?
You’ve heard about the 500 Club, and the 30/30 Club. Can Chris Young become the next member of the .200/400 Club?
I am fairly well-versed in statistics, but not a baseball researcher. I don’t know how many players in the modern era have achieved that unique feat. It’s rarified air, for sure. If anybody can find that answer, I’d be curious to know. It requires a unique combination of talents, a perfect storm where potential meets futility, where hope overcomes reason, and where salary plays a huge part.
Of course, there’s legendary Dan Uggla. We all marveled as he pulled off an incredible .179 BA with a logic-defying 537 PAs last season. Talk about wow. We can all agree that it was an astonishing performance. Not only by Uggla himself, but the entire Braves organization. Ownership, management, they all had a hand in it.
Some observers might point to last season when Chris Young hit an even .200. But sadly, he received only 375 PAs from those miserly bastards in Oakland. Denied baseball immortality by the mere technicality. Who doubts that Chris Young, if given those 25 more PAs, could have lowered his batting average a measly thousandth of a decimal point?
I ask you: Did Chris Young give up after that disappointment? Denied by only 25 plate appearances? No, he did not. He came back more determined that ever. To make this dream possible, Chris elicited a promise of guaranteed playing time from Sandy Alderson. And the man is getting paid, which is key. The Mets are invested.
But let’s face it. The deck is still stacked against him. This won’t be easy. A lot of things have to break exactly right for Chris to realize his goal. For a while there, it looked like Chris was happily on pace for 400 plate appearances. Maybe even 500. But recently, those ABs have dried up. (Damn you, Kirk Nieuwenhuis!) Today, it all hinges on the PAs.
Let’s review what he’s accomplished so far, as of July 21:
- OVERALL: 236 PA * .200 BA * 637 OPS
The worry is the plate appearances. The key here is that Chris can’t completely tank. He can’t go 0-30, start hitting in the .160 range. Even Jeff Wilpon has a breaking point, and everyone knows that Sandy Alderson’s promises are not made of gold. But here’s the beauty of Chris Young. He’s remarkably consistent. More importantly, he’s shown a knack for hitting the dramatic long ball, a feat which always buys a player at least two more weeks in the bigs. Let’s call this The Uggla Gambit. Chris has hit 8 homers already. He’s got to repeat that pattern again and again: Play extremely poorly for a while, go 3-20, make the fans disgusted every time he comes to the plate, then — BOOM, BABY, BOOM! — he goes yard. Maybe twice, even.
I think he can do it. Some numbers:
- APRIL: 42 PA * .205/.262/.410
- MAY: 99 PA * .198/.303/.326
- JUNE: 78 PA * .208/.263/.347
- JULY: 17 PA * .154/.333/.385
Clearly the man can hit under .200. That’s well-established. But I’m stressed out over the plate appearances. Here he is, putting up his best monthly OPS in July, and he can’t get the starts! Is that fair? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.
But if any manager can work Chris Young back into the lineup, it’s Terry Collins. Chris just needs one multi-hit game, one clutch home run, and the playing time will follow.
My other concern as I lay in bed awake each night, tossing and turning with worry, is what happens when the media turns up the bright lights. All of those microphones, the daily requests for interviews, the constant attention. I wonder if Chris Young might crack. Lose his focus. Maybe the average accidentally rises over .200 for a stretch. What then? Can he bring it back down fast enough?
Actually, that’s the key. I think he’s got to get hot, soon, and bring that BA all the way up to the .210 range. Keep the hounds at bay. At that point, he becomes a regular again.
Many may wonder, but can he then hit below .200? Will there be enough time?
And we may also wonder: What’s the all-time lowest batting average for a Met with more than 400 PAs in a season? What’s the record? Can Chris Young break it? In any event, to qualify, it will take a village.
No one can predict with certainty. Now that Dan Uggla’s been sent to the bench, Chris Young is MLB’s next, best hope. Personally, I think he can pull it off. As the 2014 season winds down, we may be witnessing a touch of baseball history. My advice to you: Save the newspapers, keep those ticket stubs, store your scorebooks in air-sealed plastic containers.
174 plate appearances to go.
This is the stuff of memories.