How Did Chris Young Shut Down the Mets' Bats in Game 1?
As Game 1 of the World Series entered the 12th inning, the Kansas City Royals knew they were running out of bullets.
But with all of those options used up, the team knew it had only one way to turn. That was none other than 36-year-old fly-ball extraordinaire, Chris Ryan Young. And, oh baby, did he get the job done.
The Significance of Young's Outing
I probably don't need to tell you how important of an appearance this was for Young. The 12th through 14th innings of the longest World Series Game 1 in MLB history should be pretty self-explanatory. But Young's performance is what stands out here.
A look at the win probability chart on Fangraphs can show you how big (not literally, though he is that, too) Young was. Each half inning, he'd plunge the Mets' win probability down to around 30 percent just to see it rebound to the midpoint as the Royals' bats went down in order.
All in all, Young's Win Probability Added (WPA) was .379. This was the second highest total on the team, trailing only Ben Zobrist, who had three hits and was a significant part of manufacturing the winning run. Yes, this means that Young's WPA was higher than that of Alex Gordon, whose home run sent the game to extras. WPA is by no means a perfect stat, but it should be pretty clear that Young was a straight-up boss in this one.
It's not hard to realize that Young's role was significant. Duh. What I'm still trying to wrap my head around -- a full night's sleep after the final out -- is how in the world he did it.
How Young Shut Down the Mets' Bats
Young was a tough cookie to figure out the entire year. He finished the regular season with a 5.33 xFIP, the worst in the league of any pitcher who threw at least 120 innings. He still managed to churn out a 3.06 ERA, but nothing indicated that this mark was sustainable.
The big reason that Young's peripheral measures lagged was a lack of strikeouts, an above-average walk rate, and the lowest ground-ball rate in the Majors. That's basically the precise recipe for ballooning your xFIP. Tuesday night was different, though.
Instead of being some low-strikeout smoke-and-mirrors show, dependent on Kauffman Stadium's hatred of the long ball, Young set dudes down with the third strike. He struck out 4 of the 10 batters he faced, a 40 percent strikeout rate compared to the 16.6 percent of batters he struck out in the regular season.
This wasn't entirely new for Young, either; he's been doing it the entire postseason. In now 11 2/3 innings pitched of the playoffs, Young has racked up 15 strikeouts. Seven of those came in 4 2/3 innings against a Toronto Blue Jays team that had the fifth lowest strikeout rate in the league this year. He looks like a completely different pitcher.
Perhaps even more impressive for Young is the number of bats he missed. Young generated seven swings and misses on Tuesday, equating to a 20.6 swinging-strike rate. For comparison, he had a 9.4 swinging-strike rate in the regular season. Aroldis Chapman -- he of the 175 mile-per-hour fastball -- had a 19.3 swinging-strike rate. So, yes, Young was quite good.
Once again, though, this is exactly what he has been doing the entire postseason. Young has now thrown a grand total of 126 strikes in the postseason; 30 of those have been on swings and misses for a 23.8 (!!!) swinging-strike rate. I don't know what he did when the Royals basically rested him from the end of July to the end of September, but I'm going to need some of that in my life real quick.
Obviously, part of this is Young has made two of his three appearances in relief. As the Royals have seen with Davis and others, a move to the bullpen can do wonders for someone's career. It still doesn't fully sum up the strikeouts, though, as his strikeout rate was still below average when he worked in relief during the regular season. I don't know where the strikeouts came from, and, frankly, I don't care. I just know it has been stupid fun to watch.
Going forward, it's hard to decipher whether or not Young could duplicate this outing. The consistently high swinging-strike rates this postseason indicate that something's different about him. At the same time, how rejuvenated can a 36-year-old vet be in late October? Either way, Young's impact on a thrilling Game 1 cannot be denied, and for that he should be commended.