2 Guys Talking: Where Does Eric Young Jr. Fit?

EY JrMike:

Hey, Jimmy, I noticed last week that Collin McHugh was designated for assignment by the Rockies. That got me thinking back to the trade we made with Colorado to pick up Eric Young Jr. Surely that worked out.

Jimmy:

Yes, it was a great deal. I like Eric Young, a good weapon to have on the roster. He’s not my idea of a corner outfielder, and I still have no idea if he can play second base. There was talk in some places that McHugh was a potential 5th-starter type, but I never saw it. Or I should say, those types are just not that valuable. Jake DeGrom is the latest version of Colin McHugh, every system has these guys. And yet, contrary to that, every team seems to be looking for arms, so it’s a conundrum. Mediocre pitching seems to be valued on the marketplace. That we turned an ordinary arm into a useful piece is a credit to Sandy Alderson. I just hope our desperation for a leadoff hitter doesn’t force the club to overplay its hand.

Mike:

When we acquired Young Jr. we had a very bad outfield. Even though Eric had been looked at as a utility player up until that time, sticking him at leadoff and playing him daily made sense. But after an initial hot streak Young Jr. was nothing special. He is a good guy to have on a team, but I like him coming off the bench.

Jimmy:

Eric Young is nobody’s idea of a table-setter, because he doesn’t get on base enough. It’s tumbleweed (1)natural to overrate the value of a stolen base. Speaking to this tendency, Bill James compared it to watching a tumbleweed roll across an empty landscape. He said, “A single tumbleweed blowing across the desert will attract the eye because it’s the only thing moving. A runner steal bases draws attention not because what he’s doing is important, but because he is moving.” Unless Young shifts to 2B, which I suppose is possible, I see him fighting for ABs with Juan Lagares. Because, you know, promises of regular playing time have already been made to Chris Young. And Granderson, of course, will play.

To me, Mike, the head-scratcher is Chris Young, stopgap. Wouldn’t you like to have that $7.5 million right about now?

Mike:

As to the money, that is the going rate, and even now I wouldn’t personally say “What an outfield!” about our crew. Chris Young is known as a plus defender, and I believe strong outfield defense is smart business for this team. The head-scratcher to me is the supposed promise of playing time. I’m not a fan of those types of promises. Coming off a .200 season, let Chris Young earn his playing time.

I know you are not a fan of “mix and match,” in this case I like the approach. If you look back at our National League Champion 2000 team we did a lot of that with our outfield. In 1986, Mookie, Lenny, and Kevin Mitchell shared two spots on the field. I thought this would be the idea with the Chris Young signing. The Youngs could split some time in left, and Chris could pick up another 125 ABs giving Lagares a day off when some extra offense is needed. A lot depends on how much playing time they worry about giving Eric Young Jr.

This can be managed.

Jimmy:

Um, there’s a world of difference between Bobby Valentine (circa 2000), Davey Johnson (circa 1986), and Terry Collins. With Terry, I see a guy who overreacts, or needlessly shuffles things around, who tries to make things happen, who favors proven veterans over youth whenever there’s an option. I don’t want to see young players turned into platoon guys before they ever get a real shot. My feeling is if Lagares has two bad weeks, he’ll be looking over his shoulder, sitting on the pine, worried about whether he’s taking enough pitches or not. I have no confidence in Terry Collins, the maestro. Maybe that’s the real issue here, for me. In more capable hands, it would be easier to think, “Okay, let the best man win.” In this case, I’m not sure it will be a fair fight.

Look at Daniel Murphy. I actually think he’s been handled perfectly so far. Very early on, it was clear to me — as it was to you — that his biggest value would be as a good hitting second baseman. It behooved the organization to give him that opportunity. Amazingly, that was up for debate; a lot of folks were against it. But the organization gave him a shot, and (importantly) showed a willingness to let him grow and develop over time, and in the process maximized the value of that player. Just as, for example, moving him to first base would ultimately diminish his value. The strange thing now is that the Mets are shopping Murphy, if reports are to be believed, largely because he’s going to start earning decent money. I see Juan Lagares in a Sand bagsimilar vein. Let’s try to get the most out of this guy. Let’s support him through his struggles. He’s a GG-caliber in Citi Field on a team built around young pitching. I don’t want to see that yanked around to get speedy Eric Young in games, and I sure don’t want him to prematurely lose an opportunity for a temporary sand bag named Chris Young.

Mike:

Right now I would say your position that Collins favors veterans is intuitive. I don’t think we know. In the three years he has managed, young players such as Tejada, Davis, Lagares, and Duda have been given a very fair amount of playing time. Lagares played in over 120 games after his call up. If he only starts 120 this year I think that is plenty of playing time to establish himself. Overall when I look at those 2010 to 2013 rosters Valdespin (1)I cannot find one young player who I feel was ruined by loss of opportunity. Some would say Valdespin, I guess, but I’m not a fan of his. I would have cut him way before the Mets did.

But the reason I used the word “intuitive” for your position and not wrong is I don’t think we have had enough talent to know one way or the other. The players above had to play, you have to field nine guys. And there was nothing except organizational garbage behind them.

In the case of this year’s outfield, I view the handling of Young Jr. as the key. I think Lagares and Chris Young can bring more to the table as starters, I also do not see Lagares’s skill set as being useful in a reserve role.

We made a smart, savvy move to pick up Young Jr.

Now I’m hoping we stay smart and use him correctly.

 

 

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26 comments

  1. Eric Young might best be utilized in much the same role Chone Figgins was for the Angels around 5-10 years ago. Figgins would typically play some 2nd base, 3rd base and outfield in roughly equal proportions in one year. He would also be used as a pinch-hitter, and the first man off the bench when necessary. Figgins was a very useful jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. Young could be our version of Chone Figgins.

  2. Eric says:

    He’s a great NL bench guy…solves numerous double switch, ph, pr, rest day riddles.

    If you trade murphy for a big prospect, sign Drew and slide some of the 2b ab’;s to Young, you’re a better team imho… that places Tejada as a 2b/M inf. back up…. provides room for flores…. that’s the move and young helps it happen

  3. IB says:

    Dunno. To me the head-scratcher is the Bill James quote, which I find to be nonsensical. Well, it has some poetic value I guess. I’m also not clear on what it is to overrate the value of the stolen base. I don’t think it’s necessary to state the obvious values of a guy who gets himself in scoring position in front of the meat of the order, so maybe 2 Guys can expand on that thought.

    I do get that EY is not a well-rounded player at this point in his career. His OBP leaves a lot to be desired. But, when he does get on I see huge value in the stolen base threat.

    Apologies to Bill James….

  4. Regarding the stolen base, it’s the risk/reward equation played out on computers and scoring probabilities, etc. Of course, briefly, it’s usually better to have a guy on 2B rather than 1B (unless, say, the stolen base takes the bat out of a quality hitter’s hands). Most studies I’ve seen suggest that players need to steal at a minimum of a 75% success rate for it to be an overall benefit. Otherwise, it’s better if the guy stays on first, does not risk the out, and scores on a double or two singles or a home run anyway. Teams that steal a lot of bases are not usually teams that lead the league in runs scored. But it sure is exciting! And I think that was James’ point.

    • And furthermore, in the case of Eric Young, the stolen base infatuation can led some people — including major league mangers — to overate his value as a leadoff hitter. While missing the fact that his OBP is poor. We get excited that he’s stealing bases, it’s active, not passive, but it’s overall value is often (statistically) not what it appears.

  5. RAFF says:

    I find the whole “devaluation” of the Stolen Base to be quite quizzical. For starters- the same folks who diminish the value of the stolen base extol the virtues of Catchers who throw out a high percentage of base stealers. . In general- catchers who throw out something around 37% of base stealers are judged to be “very good”. Guys who only throw out around 25%, are considered to be “weak”. And their salaries and length of contracts are awarded, accordingly. In 2013- the average team attempted about 125 stolen bases, and on average they were successful about 90 times.. So, a team with “very good” defensive catching would prevent 46 steals. A team with “weak” defensive catching would prevent 31 steals. ON AVERAGE. So- That’s a 15 Steal Differential- over a full season. It’s likely that teams attempt and succeed at stealing at a higher rate on the “weak” defensive catcher. So, just for giggles- totally un-researched- lets say the differential is 25 steals between “very good” and “weak” catching. How is it that the effort and success of a single guy, who can steal 30-40-50-or 60 bases, is judged as a “A single tumbleweed blowing across the desert”? How is it possible to say, BOTH, that Steals Don’t Count as an offensive statistic, BUT—- They DO count heavily as a defensive statistic? I’ve intentionally ignored the myriad of “situational” considerations, and I realize they play heavily in the analysis: How many outs when the base was stolen? How many of the Stolen Bases are attributable to Pitchers who just CAN’T hold guys on 1st base, etc etc… Just in summation – It’s better to have a guy standing on 2nd than on 1st.

    • I’m sorry, I know it’s almost Xmas, but a lot of the stuff in this comment is just things you are making up out of your own head, supposing they are true. For example, you say: “For starters- the same folks who diminish the value of the stolen base extol the virtues of Catchers who throw out a high percentage of base stealers.”

      Really? I don’t believe you.

      You also say: “In general- catchers who throw out something around 37% of base stealers are judged to be “very good”. Guys who only throw out around 25%, are considered to be “weak”. And their salaries and length of contracts are awarded, accordingly.”

      I don’t think that’s at all true, either. You are saying that catchers are paid according to their throwing ability? And presenting that as some kind of fact?

      And on and on it goes. No one is saying that “Steals Don’t Count,” just that there is a tendency, IMO, to place too much value on steals.

      All of that leads to a “summation” that it’s better to have a guy on 2nd that 1st? Seriously?

      If there was no risk, yes, stolen bases are helpful. Of course, guys getting thrown out at 2nd is a horrible play: you lose a baserunner and create an out.

      Anyway, there is a lot of actual data, and facts, and information you can look at.

      Signed, Earl Weaver & Davey Johnson

  6. IB says:

    This is not an “infatuation” as you put it rather strongly. Nobody is saying the stolen base, in and of itself, is the be all and end all of baseball.. Bill James’ quote comes across as completely dismissive of it’s value and that, to me, is BS.
    Stats/Sabermetrics are all well and good but baseball is a situational,nuanced sport where tempo, momentum, pressure come into play non-stop. Basepath threats, despite what computorized scoring probability algorithms spit out, add a dimension to the offense and puts pressure on the D. If the Mets were a 3 run homer machine it would be one thing, but it has been a while.

  7. Brian Joura says:

    Matt Carpenter batted leadoff in 136 games for the Cardinals last year and stole three bases. He also scored 110 runs as a leadoff hitter thanks to a .398 OBP.

    Eric Young batted leadoff in 122 games last year and stole 43 bases. He scored 68 runs as a leadoff hitter thanks to a .318 OBP.

    Undoubtedly, everyone will say the Cardinals had better hitters and that’s the reason why. But the Mets did not have zeroes coming up behind Young. Daniel Murphy ranked 20th in MLB with an 18.16 RBI% and Marlon Byrd ranked 37th with a 17.11 mark.

    Young’s strong year in SB elevated him from dreadful to bad as a leadoff man. He’s not someone we should bend over backwards to get 600 PA out of in 2014.

  8. RAFF says:

    So – in the “Advanced Statistics” world—– Is there ANY specific situation where an attempted stolen base is considered a “good move”?

  9. Michael Geus says:

    One question I have is who is going to bat first for this team? Alderson was dismissive of it being Murphy in a recent interview, citing his OBP.

    Chris Youngs OBP in the last two years was .280 and .311.

    We don’t have anybody, right?

    • W.k. kortas says:

      I think you have to hope that Young can get his OBP up to the neighborhood of his career mark of .325 and hope he can continue to steal a lot of bases at an 80% success rate; that doesn’t make him an ideal leadoff guy, but it wouldn’t be a disaster by any means. Of course, given EY’s career numbers in non-Coors parks, that’s a whole lot of hopin’

  10. Alan K. says:

    The only player with a leadoff hitter worthy OBP is David Wright. Even with the off season addition this lineup still stinks.

  11. IB says:

    Brian – I’ll bite. It’s both. Carpenter is a very fine young ballplayer, but he also had Molina, Beltran, Freese, Craig and Holiday hitting behind him. They were not scratching out runs. EY’s OBP was pretty awful, no argument. He needs to pick it up 40 points.

    But, just as an exercise I took Carpenter’s and Young’s overall AB’s. (Granted, I don’t know how many AB’s Carpenter had leading off and I’m most assuredly not a brilliant statistician).

    Anyway, Carpenter had 626 AB’s, 169 more AB’s than Young. Young had 70 runs scored in 457 AB’s which I figure to be a run scored every 6.5 AB’s. Add 169 more AB’s and it works out Young would have 96 runs scored over the same full year. So yeah, no question who you would prefer out there, but it’s not that huge a difference, and that’s with a much weaker lineup behind him.

    • Eraff says:

      I believe that a portion of the sb total should be added to tital bases….Slugging. A walk or single plus a steal seems to have many similarities to a double. Steals are not an isolated stat…..but they have not ben calculated or incorporated as a part of a players overall impact.

  12. RAFF says:

    Nice job on that, IB— Pass me one of those cold Rheingolds…

  13. RAFF says:

    So – the stolen base is only valuable if it occurs with 2 outs?

  14. Michael Geus says:

    So, does this count as this blogs airing of grievances?

    I hope so, I have to go now and fight my son.

  15. RAFF says:

    Jimmy – Earl & Davey had a “station-to station” lineup…Get on base, and wait for a Home Run. What part of what I stated is just “making it up?” Do you have a different demarcation for Catcher “caught-stealing” stats? Do you deny that teams evaluate their catching talent based, partially, on “caught stealing” stats? Do they even matter,?in the case that steals don’t matter. much – Can you identify when they ACTUALLY DO matter? In 2013, nearly 3800 steals were attempted. Were they ALL in vain?

  16. RAFF says:

    One source of CAUGHT STEALING percentages: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/fielding/_/position/c/sort/catcherCaughtStealingPct/order/true NO – I’m not making it up

  17. Eraff says:

    Jimmy– I believe TOTAL BASES is a “Hits” driven stat—and I take it that it drives slugging percentage.

    The Stolen base is not part of either stat— I would add it to total bases to give me a different view of a player. I do recognize that it may be unfair to recognize it fully as if a Stolen base itself represents an equivalent to a a base (or 2 or 3) gained in a swing of a bat. It is noted that “You can’t steal first base”….however, the stealing of other bases is not incorporated into any other stat—– it is largely an interesting and exciting “orphan”—still…there is an undeniable dynamic to Speed…speed on the bases and at the plate and skillful baserunning are not skills easily accounted for, but they are impactful.

    Obviously, non of these stats stand adequately on their own….but a guy with 30-60 “additonal bases” has some unstated and still misrepresented statistical impact beyond his obp and OPS/Slugging.

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