Delmon Young is a failure. By any conceivable regular season measure, he’s a sub-par major league player. He never became the superstar the Rays thought he could be, not be longshot. His most valuable contribution to baseball may have been being involved in the trade that netted the Rays Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, two players who led the Rays to their unbelievable 2008 World Series run. But what in the world happens to Young in the playoffs? He now has 6 postseason home runs, most in Detroit Tigers history and proved himself yet again on Saturday, drilling an RBI double and a solo homer that were the difference in the Tigers’ win over the New York Yankees! How is any of this even possible?
Delmon Young is one of the most disappointing players in baseball history. Is he among the worst? Absolutely not. Plenty of top five draft picks never lasted six full seasons in the major leagues. But even as he has carved out a solid career for himself, we constantly see so many of abilities go to waste. His attitude has always been a problem, from his bat-throwing incident in the minor leagues to his anti-Semitic slur this season. But even sticking to his on-field performance, he started with five tools, and how many has he ended up with? One, two, maybe three? Just look at him? He was around 6’4″, 200 back when he was a prospect. Now he’s 6’4″, 240! He used to have above-average speed, stealing 75 bases in the minors from 2004 to 2006, and now he has stolen 1 base the past two seasons! He used to be regarded as a plus defender in right field, and now he’s so bad defensively that he hasn’t even played a single game in right field since 2007 and is regarded as one of the worst defensive left fielders in baseball! But even all that you could deal with if he was hitting. Truth be told, Delmon Young has a .284 career batting average. But look at his on-base percentage, a below-average .317! Look at his slugging percentage, a meager .425! Young has never had a season in the big leagues where he has struck out less than 2.8 times as much as he has walked including 112 strikeouts versus just 20 walks this sesaon! How has he never learned any plate discipline after all these years? And that lack of plate discipline has also made his power much less of a factor. Delmon Young is a great hitter, so great that he manages to make solid contact on bad pitches and hit for a solid average. But what does it matter when he refuses to walk or even wait for mistakes to drive so his power will materialize consistently? Plenty of talented prospects never pan out. But Young’s failure to reach his potential seems to be a case of him completely sabotaging himself as much as anything else.
How has Delmon Young been so incredible in the postseason? Does it take the exhilaration of the playoffs for him to finally realize that he needs to put the commitment in? Who knows, but by the way his career playoff average is .247 to go along with a .299 OBP. The past two years for the Tigers, he has a .263 average and a .300 OBP. He has been incredibly clutch, but he really has not been that great overall. The flashes keep surfacing for Young and that may always be the case. Believe it or not, Young only turned 27 years old in September. Only now he’s entering his his prime. But even as we watch Young come through when it matters most, we can’t help but chastise him for taking his talents and doing everything he can to throw them away.