M’s notebook: How Chris Young uses the numbers
By Shannon Drayer
MINNEAPOLIS – The 45-day advance-consent clause in Chris Young’s contract with the Mariners very quietly expired a few days ago. He has more than earned his spot on the Mariners 25-man roster – he settled in after an abbreviated spring training coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and has been one of the nicer surprises on the team with a 3-0 and 1.83 ERA over his last four starts.
Tonight Young will face a lineup that has just two players in it that he has faced before – Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel. Without a personal book on the Twins he will rely heavily on his preparation, which has been ongoing since his last start.
Young is a pitcher that dives into the numbers like few others that we have seen recently in Seattle. He takes full advantage of the numbers that are supplied by the Mariners analytics department and recently he gave me a look into which numbers helped him the most.
“I like to look at the numbers so that they’re the average that they’re hitting off of pitchers – right-handed pitchers – over the last 500 at-bats or so. And each pitch that I throw – fastball, curveball, slider, changeup – helps me get an idea of what they see and what they don’t,” he said.
He then takes it one step further, because different hitters are different hitters in different counts.
“I like to see those averages with two strikes because they tend to go down pretty dramatically and so it gives me a good idea that if I get ahead, all those pitches become much better pitches, percentage-wise,” he said. “And then there’s slugging percentage on those pitches as well. It’s just helpful to see that. Sometimes you can see who changes their approach with two strikes, who sits soft, who stays on fastballs, who’s making adjustments, who’s not. There are some hitters who are bad early in the count on breaking balls, become very good breaking-ball hitters when the count gets to two strikes. So, it’s stuff like that where you can sort of read the numbers and get a decent idea of their approaches.”
This is just one piece of his preparation. There are other numbers he looks at and film he watches. He keeps his personal notes not in a little notebook like Jamie Moyer used to but on a flash drive instead. Anything that can give him any advantage is worth taking note of.
“I don’t change who I am or how I’m going to pitch necessarily because of it,” he said, “but I think it’s helpful to know and if you can get an advantage on one, two, possibly five pitches a night, at this level it can make a difference between winning and losing.”
It is a lot of preparation but in the end it gives him peace of mind.
“It gives me the confidence when I’m out there that I’ve done everything I can, and it’s a matter of competing at that point,” he said. “And the more confident you can be? The game’s hard enough, so you gotta be able to believe in yourself and I like to do all this work to at least convince myself that I can still do it.”
He is convincing plenty of others he can still do it as well.
Michael Saunders is getting his first start since hyper-extending his knee. This will be his first start this season batting second.
• Robinson Cano has reached base safely in the last 23 games
• The Mariners are 7-0 after days off.
• Logan Morrison took batting practice and ran the bases again today. He looks close to being ready for a rehab assignment. Manager Lloyd McClendon said earlier this week that since Morrison missed so much time and had yet to get the bat going before he was hurt that they would most likely take full advantage of the rehab assignment. Hitters are allowed 20 days on each rehab assignment.
• James Paxton will throw a two-inning sim game Saturday afternoon and Taijuan Walker is scheduled to throw a bullpen.
• How times have changed. About 3 1/2 hours before Friday’s game there were 17 players sitting at their lockers. Of those 17 players, 14 were on electronic devices, a good number playing games.
• One particularly funny sight in the clubhouse involved the locker assignments. When the team travels, two trucks meet the plane at the airport. One is for luggage and the other is for equipment, which goes directly to the field regardless of what time it is. There the visiting clubhouse attendants hang the uniforms and put away the equipment. They also assign the lockers. Today there was a rather strange assignment as Justin Smoak found himself situated in the middle of the relievers between Danny Farquhar and Tom Wilhelmsen. “I have no idea,” Smoak said with a shake of his head and a laugh when asked. He like the others had his phone out and Tom was showing him a new number game that he has been playing recently. “Got to keep my mind sharp!” he said.
• MLB announced a couple of scoring changes for the Mariners. A Cano error was changed to a fielders choice with an additional run charged to Roenis Elias, and Michael Saunders was credited with a hit for a bunt in a game in Oakland that was originally scored as a sac-bunt and error.