Chris Young is at it again

Otto Greule Jr

In many ways Chris Young is an unremarkable pitcher, but in some ways he absolutely is.

For the average baseball fan there is very little reason to take notice of Chris Young. The 35-year-old right-hander has been solid for the Mariners this year when it comes to run prevention with a 3.40 ERA, but his awful peripherals show a guy who really isn't worth writing home about.

That being said, there are some very unusual things about Mr. Young. The first and most obvious is the fact that he's a 6' 10" pitcher who brings 85 mph heat. We tend to expect taller pitchers to have better velocity, but Young seems to have the Jon Rauch/Mark Hendrickson syndrome wherein his length does nothing to add ticks to his fastball.

Soft-tossers like Young are not unheard of in the MLB. Mark Buehrle is the most obvious example of a guy surviving with a sub-90 mph fastball in 2014, but there are other examples like Tim Hudson and Jered Weaver.

What makes Young unique is the way he gets batters out. Most pitchers that lack the proverbial "umph" on the fastballs lean on a variety of deceptive off-speed pitches, but not Young. Instead the Mariners starter is throwing 71.3% heaters despite his lack of velocity.

The result of this steady diet of heaters is absolutely unique in the game today. Chris Young is a known as a fly ball pitcher, but perhaps less understood is the incredible extent to which he gets players to hit the ball in the air. This season Young has the lowest GB/FB mark in the league at 0.43, a number that would be the lowest recorded since 2002 when the data became publicly available.

In fact, since 2002 Chris Young dominates the bottom of the leaderboard when it comes to GB/FB, something of a dubious honor.

Player Year GB/FB
Chris Young 2014 0.43
Chris Young 2006 0.45
Chris Young 2007 0.53
Ted Lilly 2010 0.56
Eric Milton 2004 0.57

It should be noted that in the seasons that Young exhibited these extreme fly ball tendencies he pitched in either Petco or Safeco, allowing his to limit the damage. Playing in these friendly home parks he's been able to maintain a career HR/FB of just 8% with an ERA of 3.76 despite an xFIP of 4.83.

To give credit solely to the parks would be disingenuous though, as his career infield fly ball rate of 15.5% is well above the major league average.

Overall it seems that at the age of 35 Chris Young is more or less doing what he does. The right hander is pounding the zone with a pitch that is only generously called a fastball and getting a ton of fly balls as a result. From here on out he will live and die by praying those fly balls don't leave the park.

If that's the strategy you're going to use as a pitcher, Seattle is pretty fine place to make a living.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.


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