Young over Medlen: the right move for the Royals?

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Medlen or Young? Young or Medlen? The Former Brave or the Has to Remain Brave Around Ceiling Fans? One Chris or Kris to rule them all.

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Going into what could be a decisive and otherwise extremely important Game 4 in the 2015 ALCS, this is the question Ned Yost faces. Will he go with the not-so-flashy proven veteran who has quietly gone about his business (but has a career tendency to fade out down the stretch) or pitch the shiny new toy working his way back from Tommy John?

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He has already announced he's giving the ball to Young. This really can’t come as a surprise to anyone that has followed the Royals the past few years. Yost is an incredibly loyal skipper, one who manages his gut better than a GI specialist.


Those of us not on the Royals payroll have all posted our various reactions to this decision, some more rational than others. Do the numbers support starting Young over Medlen?

We’ll start with a career look versus right handed batters. Again, as long as you haven’t been living under a petrified maple leaf, you are aware of the dynamic right handed bats of the Jays lineup. Especially when at the Rogers Centre, games often turn into beer league softball slugfests, complete with drunken revelry.

Over his career, Young has held right handed batters to .212/.280/.376, giving up a HR on average every 30.26 plate appearances. Medlen has a slightly less effective overall line of .256/.293/.382; a .675 OPS vs Young’s .656. But Medlen serves up the long ball significantly less, only allowing one in every 41.11 plate appearances.

Interestingly enough, Medlen actually has a better line against southpaws, holding them to .238/.300/.366 and surrendering a dinger every 58.6 plate appearances on average. However, there aren’t a whole lot of left handed threats in the Blue Jay line up to worry about.

The signs here seem to point towards Medlen as a better decision.

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But sports are most definitely a “what have you done for me lately?” endeavor. How does a comparison of recent success stack up?

Both Medlen and Young have faced the Blue Jays this year. On July 11th (a truly wonderful day for this particular sports blogger), Young took the loss at home, giving up 3 ER over 6 IP en route to a 6-2 Royals loss. Encarnacion took him deep for two of those runs, but it was otherwise a decent enough performance.

Medlen took the ball against the blue birds on July 30th in the not-so-friendly confines of the Rogers Centre. He pitched the bottom of the 8th, executing a scoreless yet tenuous inning. He walked two and allowed a hit, but also struck out a pair.

With neither having much of a sample size or any dramatic success or failure, this point becomes a push.


Our biggest separation comes when we look at their success against the right side of dish specifically in 2015. Young has held right handed batters to .159/.215/.327. Or, Ya know, Omar Infante type numbers.

He has given up the long ball once every 31.25 plate appearances on average, very slightly better than his career mark.

Medlen has been noticeably less effective against righties in 2015, allowing .266/.286/.385 and a round tripper every 28 plate appearances on average, significantly worse than his promising career mark so far.

The advantage here clearly goes to Chris Young.

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Our rudimentary numbers comparison has given us a vote for each and a push. It appears we are all tied up going in the wildcard round: Ned Yost’s gut.

At the rate he is going in this postseason, Ned Yost could tell you the sky is maroon or that Theodore Roosevelt was a Martian velociraptor and you’d have to just suck it up and say “Yes sir. Whatever you say sir.” Every close decision he has or hasn’t made has turned up regal for the Royals.

Still, the playoffs are a barbarous mistress where next to anything is possible and “what’s supposed to happen” rarely does. The numbers show this choice to be more or less a coin flip. Yost has been pretty good at those lately.

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Author: Zach Hodson

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