After being involved in an offseason blockbuster trade, Delmon Young is off to a slow start. Through Wednesday Young was hitting a meager .262/.318/.333 without any homers. As my friend Ross, who is a Minnesota Twins fan, asked yesterday: what is wrong with Delmon? The answer appears to be: nothing. In fact, Young has actually shown signs of improvement.
Delmon Young has notoriously poor plate discipline. Last season, Young played in all 162 games and managed only 24 unintentional walks. In 116 games between triple-A and the majors in 2006, Young walked only 16 times. This year, however, Young has already walked 15 times in only 50 games. After seeing only 3.5 pitches per plate appearance last year, Young has seen 3.9 pitches per plate appearance this year. While he’s no Barry Bonds, this represents quite the improvement over the rest of his career. If he can keep this pace up, Young will more than double his walk total from last year.
Additionally, Young is also striking out less often than he did last year. Young struck out in 19.7% of his plate appearances last year; this year, Young has struck out in only 15.9% of his plate appearances.
If we look deeper, we can see that Young is being more selective at the plate. Last season, Young swung at 41.3% of pitches out of the strike zone. He only made contact with these pitches out of the zone 51.3% of the times that he swung at them. Thus, he swung at non-strikes often and only made contact half of the time that he swung. This year, Young has swung at pitches out of the strike zone 36.2% of the time, and has made contact with these pitches out of the zone 58.2% of the time. While he is still chasing too many balls, he has swung at fewer pitches out of the zone this year and has made contact more often when he did swing at these pitches.
Interestingly, Young has also become more selective in choosing which pitches in the strike zone to swing at. Last season, Young swung at 84.3% of pitches in the strike zone; this year, however, Young has swung at only 75.9% of pitches in the strike zone.
These numbers make sense: if Young is making a concerted effort to be more selective at the plate, it may result in him taking more strikes as well as balls. This could be beneficial: plate discipline doesn’t only mean drawing walks, but also being selective in choosing which strikes to swing at.
Young is still very young – he won’t turn 23 until September. There is still plenty of time for his power to develop. If he can become more patient and selective at the plate, it will greatly aid his overall hitting (as it will lead to a higher on-base percentage), and also could help his power, as Young will be able to wait for better pitches that he can drive for extra base hits.
To answer Ross’s question, even though Delmon has displayed virtually no power this year, take heart: Young appears to be making important strides in his plate discipline.