KC Royals emergency starter Chris Young stood out for the fourth game in a row as a member of the rotation. Young held the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless over six innings Friday night in the Kansas City Royals 5-0 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
Taking the place of the injured Jason Vargas, Young has allowed only one run in 22.2 innings pitched in four starts. That’s a ridiculous 0.40 ERA.
At this point, Chris Young is simply too good to return to his bullpen role of long-reliever.
It’s not rocket science people. The KC Royals are a PERFECT fit for Chris Young. He’s a 6’10” right-handed pitcher whose fastball averages a mere 87 miles per hour according to Brooks Baseball. He’s a fly ball pitcher with an extremely low career ground ball rate (GB%) of 26.3%.
With the most outrageous outfield defense in all of baseball and a big home park in Kauffman Stadium, the Kansas City Royals are the perfect team for a pitcher like Chris Young. No team can turn fly balls into outs like Kansas City, and there aren’t many parks that suppress home runs like Kauffman. According to ESPN.com’s park factors, Kansas City is the 5th hardest stadium to hit a home run.
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Kauffman Stadium, with the KC Royals defense behind him, is Chris Young’s Field of Dreams.
Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger argued a few days ago that the Royals are better off returning Chris Young to the pen due to his second-half collapse last season. Yes, Chris Young’s ERA zoomed to 4.70 in the second half of 2014 after a first half at 3.15.
But that’s not the simple story of fatigue that Mellinger seems to presume.
First of all, Young’s second half collapse was more one bad month at the tail end of the season rather than a bad second half. Young’s ERA for July was 3.29. In August, he maintained a strong 3.05 ERA. Only in September/October did his ERA balloon to 8.59.
That number was driven by allowing seven home runs in four starts over the last month of the season. He also posted a season high K/9 of 8.6. Chris Young’s velocity chart on Brooks Baseball shows that his average fastball velocity did dip to 85.83 mph in September from his peak month in June (86.32), but it was faster than his solid July (85.82) and August (85.49).
That doesn’t look like a guy running out of gas. That looks like a guy with a gopher ball problem. Notice also that Young is throwing harder this season (87.66 in April, and 86.98 in May).
Further, Young was coming back from shoulder surgery due to thoracic outlet syndrome in 2014. Young is now more than a year removed from surgery and presumably has built up his arm strength. Even if fatigue was a problem last season, it’s reasonable to assume Chris Young has more in his arm than the 165.0 innings he pitched last season.
Don’t overthink this people. Chris Young has an 0.74 ERA so far this season. Sandwich him between two harder throwers to make his odd motion (he’s 6’10” with long arms) look all the more deceptive to opponents and let him roll.
However, if the KC Royals use him like a latter-day Storm Davis (who won 19 games for the 1989 Oakland A’s after regularly getting pulled after five or six innings), then Chris Young can be a very valuable member of the rotation.