Last week after a 3-for-3 game in which Chris Young was a triple shy of the cycle, Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin mentioned that he thought putting the floundering outfielder in the leadoff spot had “invigorated” him.
Which is great when you consider just how extensively the former Arizona Diamondback has been struggling. He’s 8-for-56 (.143) in his last 18 games and hitting .200 since coming off the DL on May 18. Of course, it’s also kind of a problem when you consider that Coco Crisp has the top spot in the lineup locked down. Crisp is 32-for-97 (.330) in his past 25 games, has stolen 13 bases and leads the team with 42 runs scored despite having appeared in only 53 games.
Young is back to the top spot tonight, but it’s not a position he should be getting used to anytime soon. In fact, it’s time for Young to take a page out Seth Smith‘s book.
Smith could be best described as a professional hitter. He’s a career .268 hitter and recently collected his 500th career hit with a double off the Seattle Mariners‘ Hisashi Iwakuma.
But by far the most important aspect of Smith’s game is that he gets his role on the club. He’s a bench guy. Whenever Melvin writes him into the lineup or calls his number, he’s always ready to swing it.
In 2013, he’s 1-for-3 with two walks and a home run as a pinch hitter. In his career, he’s a .319 pinch hitter, which when you think about it is pretty insane. The guy literally waits around for two hours then hits like a Hall of Famer. Since 2007, he has the best batting average and highest slugging percentage among all MLB pinch hitters with at least 100 at bats. Oh, and he’s second in on-base percentage.
You wouldn’t know it from the way he tracks fly balls in the outfield, but the former backup to Eli Manning at the University of Mississippi is actually a surprisingly agile man and a more than solid defender. And if the Athletics get into another one of those 18+ inning affairs, fans might just get to see that arm of his.
Whatever it is that Smith does for the first six innings of the game, or those three days in between starts, Young should be paying very close attention. Because when it comes to being a bench guy, and that’s what Young now is, there’s nobody who’s better to learn from than Smith.