by Jay Hashop
“I’m a big believer in Michael Young. And if the ship sinks, I’ll still be on it.”
– Ron Washington, August 2012
The S.S. Ultimate Professional officially sank on October 5th, 2012, when the Texas Rangers lost the AL Wild Card game to mighty Joe Saunders and the Baltimore Orioles. Coming off a strong 2011 season in which FanGraphs credited Young with 3.5 fWAR (FanGraphs wins above replacement), the Rangers’ super-utility player struggled all season at the plate and in the field, ending the season at -1.6 fWAR as one of the worst everyday players in Major League Baseball. Contributing significantly to his collapse was the complete lack of power Young displayed in 2012, when he posted his lowest season marks in both home runs (8) and isolated slugging (.093) in over a decade. Additionally, Young’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) dropped to .299 from the .367 he recorded in 2011. The breakdown in Young’s game was so severe that general manager Jon Daniels paid the Phillies 10 million dollars to take Young in exchange for a middle reliever and a bullpen prospect in case Young had permanently lost the ability to play at least replacement-level baseball.
While Young fizzled, his teammate David Murphy sizzled on his way to accumulating more fWAR in 2012 (3.9) than he had from 2009 through 2011 (3.7). Murphy finally appeared to have conquered the left-handed pitching demons that had forced him into a platoon-like role for much of his career, and the Rangers showed confidence in Murphy by naming him the everyday left fielder going into 2013. A .433 BABIP against left-handed pitchers on only 60 balls in play served as cause for concern about steep regression, but Murphy at least appeared to be a sufficient corner outfield option. Continue reading “Breaking Down the Breakdown: David Murphy”