Even the very best teams in MLB have their swings and misses.
Just ask the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics, who have followed up their feel-good underdog story of 2012 as the top dog in the division thus far, currently leading the Texas Rangers by two games as the second half of the season approaches.
Still, it’s not as though the team is firing on all cylinders, and one piece that has been sputtering all season long is outfielder Chris Young.
Part of the team’s much-discussed five-man outfield rotation, the toolsy 29-year-old was expected to be a natural platoon to folks like Seth Smith, who have trouble hitting lefties. Aside from plus defense, Young’s power-speed pedigree from his days in the NL was supposed to give the A’s a dynamic weapon that they could use in just about any spot, whether it be starting or off the bench.
Thus far, Young has failed to meet just about all of those expectations.
Sure, he’s does have eight home runs and six steals over 230 PA, putting him on pace for double digits in both despite limited time … but he is seeing limited time for good reason. At -1.7 fielding runs above average and -21.5 UZR/150, he’s not been the rangy defender out there that Oakland was expecting to see.
The issues with his quad stemming from 2012 that landed him on the DL already this year might have something to do with that, but combined with a brutal .190/.274/.366 triple-slash at the plate?
Well, now A’s just have themselves a full-on disaster.
Maybe it’s just the cruelty of the baseball gods beating up on someone what they’re already down. After all, his 22 percent line drive rate this season is a little bit incongruous to a career-low .217 BABIP; but considering that he is one of the top contenders for the King of Pop-ups title at 18.9 percent (his 18 percent over the past three seasons ranks him tied for third in the majors), you can’t say he’s doing much to help himself either.
Essentially, Young is a fly ball hitter gone wrong. And the worst part? He’s actually posting reverse lefty-righty splits this season with a .560 OPS vs. LHP and .691 against righties.
Oh, and did I mention that the A’s owe this -0.1 fWAR player $8 million of the $8.5 million that he’s owed in 2013?
For a team whose M.O. is based on value, Young represents a stark contrast to the rest of the roster. His tools were supposed to make him something of a bargain; instead, he’s the team’s least valuable player in the first half — or anti-MVP, if you will.