I Thought You Had Power?

Minnesota and Tampa Bay completed one of the more interesting trades of the winter when the Rays sent former #1 overall pick Delmon Young to Minnesota for a pu-pu platter of interesting players. Young had been thought of as part of the foundation of Tampa’s rebuilding project, and had just finished playing an entire season as their starting right fielder at the age of 21. Due to his physical stature, offensive potential, and some issues with maturity, the most common comparison heard when scouts discussed Young was Albert Belle. The Twins certainly believed that they were getting a potential cleanup hitter that they could build their offense around, and gushed over Young’s bat after the deal was announced.

Two months in, Minnesota has to be wondering where the power went. Young not only has failed to hit a home run in his new digs, he’s also only racked up 10 extra base hits and a meager .071 Isolated Slugging Percentage. That’s lower than Tony Pena Jr’s career ISO, and as we mentioned yesterday, he might be one of the worst hitters in baseball history. Young isn’t supposed to be hitting like a middle infielder, and he’s certainly not supposed to be hitting like one of the feeblest middle infielders around.

Where has the power gone? Well, take a look at these two charts.



The first graph is his ISO, which shows that his current performance is well below average compared to just a normal hitter, not even accounting for the fact that he’s a corner outfielder without much defensive value. The second chart, however, shows the main problem – a skyrocketing ground ball rate and a nosediving line drive rate. After hitting the ball on the ground 46.6% and 46.3% of the time respectively the last two seasons, Young’s groundball rate is currently at 62.7%. For comparison, Luis Castillo’s career ground ball rate is 62.9%, and I’m sure that the Twins’ fans who remember him slapping the ball onto the Metrodome astroturf weren’t expecting Young to do a spot on impression.

Ground balls and power just don’t go together. The guys who hit the ball on the ground 60% of the time or more are slap-hitting infielders. In fact, of the five guys currently posting a GB% over 60%, Young is the only one who doesn’t play shortstop. You can’t become the next Albert Belle by constantly driving the ball into the ground, so it’s time for someone in Minnesota to talk to Delmon about his swing and get him lifting the ball again. Until he remembers how to get under the ball and drive it with authority, he’s going to be a colossal disappointment and a hindrance to the Twins’ playoff chances.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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14 years ago

Memo to league: Tampa Bay is smarter than you.