Kansas City Royals: I Like Moving Chris Young To Pen

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Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost announced Friday afternoon that he decided to move Chris Young to the bullpen—instead of Jeremy Guthrieto make room for newly acquired ace Johnny Cueto.

I like the move.

Now, if you simply look at the numbers, you’re going to wonder what the heck is going on. Thirty-six year old Chris Young boasts a fine 3.25 ERA, while age contemporary Jeremy Guthrie sports an awful 5.65. That’s the kind of ERA that gets a pitcher designated for assignment, especially with baseball in a pitching-dominated era.

So, the attentive reader might ask, “John, why in $&#! do you like this move?”

It’s because I’m looking at a different set of numbers.

Hey, what did you expect? Did you think I went full Ned on y’all?

Blah. I’m still a moderately faithful acolyte of the sabermetric religion. Now, I’m not a guy that discounts the idea that intangibles and emotional factors affect performance. Heck, I even wrote about this issue last October.

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I generally don’t try to account for intangibles, or chemistry, when I try to play general manger here on Kings of Kauffman, because I’m too far removed to have any kind of reliable information of that sort. The only real data I have to puzzle out “chemistry” is 1.) what various players and front office people from the KC Royals reveal to us electron-stained wretches, or 2.) deductions based my own beliefs about how the world works.

The first is prone to PR spin, such that I find it difficult to determine whether I’m getting an actual peek behind the curtain, or a player is feeding us the warmed over ant mash produced by front office worker drones. The second are hopelessly colored by my own biases and limited experience (at least with respect to professional baseball).

Consequently, I latch onto statistics as the only objective measure within the scope of my analytical ability.

Now, there’s also a valid point to this type of analysis. The problem with accounting for social/behavioral factors that are difficult to quantify (i.e. “intangibles”), those who are in the position to have such information often tend to over-value it. Thus, they can miss seeing the elephant sitting on their laptop and start digging into operating system hieroglyphics to determine why the darn thing won’t start up.

Of course, this mini-lecture on my analytical preferences isn’t getting us anywhere close to why I like the Kansas City Royals moving Chris Young to the pen.

The thing is, Chris Young’s performance has been fading rather sharply after a strong start. Young posted a 1.86 ERA for the KC Royals in April, continued with a 1.46 ERA in May, but has suffered through some serious inflation in June (4.34 ERA) and July (4.50 ERA).

Young followed a similar pattern last season in his Comeback Player of the Year campaign in 2014 for Seattle. Chris Young zoomed out to an 8-6 start with a 3.15 ERA in 111.1 innings in the first half, which slid to a 4-3 record and a 4.70 ERA in 53.0 innings over the 2nd half.

Chris Young seemed to tire as the 2014 season wore on, which really isn’t surprising since he had worked his way back after missing the 2013 season due to shoulder surgery.

Thus, moving Young to the bullpen to save him from fatigue makes perfect sense. Especially when Young’s deceptive motion, and long arms and legs make him a difficult adjustment for a hitter as a reliever. As I pointed out in another article, Madison Bumgarner wasn’t the only reason the Kansas City Royals fell just short of bringing home the 2014 title. If the KC Royals long-relievers had been able to hold a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning in game 4, Kansas City might have seen Cinderella win the crown.

Winning game 4 would have given the Kansas City Royals an almost insurmountable three games to one lead in the 2014 World Series.

Thus, Giants middle reliever Yusmeiro Petit had as much to do with KC’s World Series loss as the more celebrated Madison Bumgarner.

By the way, did you notice Ned’s awkward tap-dance as he tried to explain the logic behind his move to The Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough? Yost attributed his choice to the fact that Jeremy Guthrie had never relieved in his career, while Young had experience in the role. What Ned didn’t say is that Guthrie had made four relief appearances in 2012 during his lost half-season in Colorado, and six in his Kansas City Royals tenure. And, Chris Young had never made a major-league relief appearance before this season.

I suspect Ned Yost was trying to avoid saying the obvious, “Young’s arm is tired.” I guess that would constitute throwing someone under the bus in clubhouse culture, or giving opponents harmful information.

Whatever Ned’s reason, moving Chris Young to the pen sets him up to be the KC Royals’ Yusmeiro Petit in 2015. Meanwhile, fifth starter Guthrie is likely to be left off the playoff roster. And, by resting Young now, he’ll be ready to move into the rotation if need arises when games REALLY count.

Next: How Ben Zobrist Helps The KC Royals Lineup

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