Delmon Young’s Absence Won’t Be A Big Deal

When the Tigers turned in their roster for the ALCS, there was one major change – Delmon Young (strained oblique) was out and Danny Worth was in, so Detroit will have to go forward without their starting left fielder. While losing any player off your roster at this time of year isn’t good news, Young’s loss probably won’t make much of a difference in the outcome of the series.

Young performed well for Detroit in their ALDS win over the Yankees, but in reality, he’s a pretty mediocre player. Even after being acquired by Detroit, Young hit just .274/.298/.458 during the regular seson, good for a 101 wRC+. Essentially, he was a league average hitter, and that’s only if you ignore the disaster that was his 2011 season in Minnesota.

Young’s true talent level is probably closer to his Detroit performance than his Minnesota performance, as he showed some power in 2010 and does have some undeniable athletic ability, but even at his peak, he’s an overly aggressive hitter who hits a lot of ground balls and is a mediocre fielder at best. He can be useful when he drives the ball regularly – as he did against the Yankees – but when he’s not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, he’s basically useless.

Of course, everything we just said about Young is also true of Ryan Raburn. He’s also an overly aggressive right-handed hitter who relies on his power to provide value, and while UZR thinks he’s okay defensively, Tigers fans consistently rate him as a liability with the glove. How similar are Young and Raburn? Well, here are their 2010-2011 lines, side by side – see if you can figure out which is which.

A: .268/.318/.453, .334 wOBA, 106 wRC+
B: .285/.319/.448, .330 wOBA, 106 wRC+

The slightly lower wOBA but equal wRC+ might give away the fact that Young’s line comes second, as the park adjustment for playing in Minnesota brings his overall performance up. Still, you’d be hard pressed to find two more similar hitters over the last couple of years.

If Raburn sees all of the at-bats that would have gone to Young, the Tigers won’t see much of a drop-off in expected production in left field. Of course, Raburn would have played some regardless, so there will be a bit of a loss from whatever playing time he would have accrued now being shifted to the likes of Don Kelly, Magglio Ordonez, and Danny Worth, but Leyland only managed to give Raburn five plate appearances in the first round, so he probably wasn’t going to be prominently involved in the ALCS.

Losing Young won’t help the Tigers, but if Leyland uses the injury to make Raburn a full-time player, it won’t hurt them that much either. Despite Young’s absence, your opinion of the result of the ALCS shouldn’t change much from what it was when we though Young would be healthy enough to play. He’s just not good enough to have his loss dramatically change the expected outcome.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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12 years ago

You could of told me Miguel Cabrera was replacing him at equal value after last week and I would of believed you.

Barkey Walker
12 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

This is the confusing statement, “He’s just not good enough to have his loss dramatically change the expected outcome.”

He is good enough to have his loss dramatically change the outcome, just not in expectation–i.e. if they played 100 and then selected 7 at random to be the ALCS, he would not be an important player. But in the 100, there would certainly be ones like the last 5 where he was important.