Delmon Young’s 8th inning double that drove in three runs to tie the game at four and eventually lead to the Twins 5-4 win over the Yankees shows just how far he’s come at the plate in the last couple years.
The image to the right shows the pitch sequence of the at-bat. The first pitch was an outside fastball that Delmon was able to lay-off. I think it’s important to mention how significant it is that he took that pitch for a ball, because I believe that the Delmon Young of 2008 and 2009 probably swings at that pitch.
Here’s the reason: In 2008 Delmon had 623 plate appearances. Of those, he was started off with a ball in 281 PA’s. And of those, he swung and missed or hit a foul 60 times. This means that Delmon swung and missed or hit a foul on the first pitch of an at-bat 21% of the time when that first pitch was a ball. In 2009, that same ratio declined to 14%. And in 2010, it was down to 9%. DY has definitely improved his eye at the start of at-bats, and it was shown again last night against the Yankees.
The second pitch was a strike that was almost down the middle (just slightly up and in), and Delmon took a good cut at it and fouled it off. The third pitch was close to the location of the first pitch, but a little less outside. Delmon again was able to layoff of this pitch and get up in the count. The fourth pitch was a borderline pitch up and in that DY didn’t swing at, putting him up in the count 3-1. The fifth pitch was a strike on the outside part of the plate that Delmon again took a good cut at and fouled off.
The sixth pitch, with a 3-2 count and the game basically on the line, was a borderline fastball up and out of the strike zone. However, with Delmon having to protect the strike zone at this point, he was able to do just enough to muscle the ball into short right field, driving home the game-tying runs.
To summarize, Delmon Young took three pitches in a clutch situation in Yankee Stadium that were borderline strikes and definitely pitches that he would’ve swung in ’08 or ‘09. Taking those pitches enabled him to get good pitches to swing at, eventually leading to his three-run double. It was a very good at-bat that led to a win and that could help the Twins psyche in facing the Yankees not only in this series, but later in the season and possibly the postseason as well. This may end up being one of the most important at-bats of the Twins’ 2011 season.
And there’s one last point about Delmon that needs to be made. Every year of his career he’s put up a positive value in Fangraph’s “Clutch” statistic. Even with how bad he was in ’08 and ’09, he’s come through in the tight situations more often than not. As a point of comparison, Joe Mauer has put up a negative clutch value in four of his seven seasons, while Justin Morneau has negative clutch values in four of his eight seasons. So I think it’s fair to say that although Mauer and Morneau are better overall hitters, Delmon may actually be the guy you want up there with the game on the line, especially considering his maturation as a hitter.