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Delmon Young's Improved Approach at the Plate

When he arrived in Minnesota as a talented 22-year old looking to put it all together, we knew what we had in Delmon Young:  an aggressive hitter that couldn't distinguish one situation from the next.  Halfway through his best professional season to date, how exactly has his approach improved?

Improvements have been pretty much across the board for Delmon this season.  Looking at the numbers provided by Inside Edge, Young grades out better than he ever has in a Twins uniform in 23 out of their 24 sub-categories for hitters.  This morning I want to take a look at a few of his more outstanding improvements.

Biggest 3 Improvements

Sub-Category:  % of fastballs put in play
Grade Improvemet:  +9  (F to B+)

Year %
2008 35
2009 35
2010 47

With the MLB average over this period right around 45 percent, this constitutes a drastic improvement, and lends credence to what we've discussed here in the past:  Delmon is taking better swings.  Not just mechanically or in terms of putting good wood on the ball, but also in terms of his decision making and pitch identification.

Sub-Category:  slugging percentage
Grade Improvement:  +8  (C- to A+)

Year %
2008 .405
2009 .425
2010 .502

As impressive as this improvement is, it's unfortunate that it's come in slugging percentage...if only because Inside Edge offers so many other more interesting metrics to look at.  Oh well.

There's also a caveat to this:  the average MLB slugging percentage is about 16 or 17 points lower than it was in '08 and '09 (down to .425 from around .441).  So you can look at this in one of two ways (or both, what do I care):  that Young's grade this season is a bit inflated due to a lower average, or that his slugging percentage should be that much more impressive due to the lower league average.

Sub-Category:  quality at-bat % in close/late games
Grade Improveent:  +7  (D- to B)

Year %
2008 36
2009 43
2010 43

This is one of the few categories that actually saw drastic improvement last season, that he's been able to maintain this year.  With league average right around 43 percent, in conjunction with a number of his other improvements it's a sign of a more disciplined approach at the plate.

We'll talk a bit more about Delmon's approach, with a little help from Inside Edge, after the jump.

In the past, we've talked about Delmon's plate discipline (or lack thereof) quite a bit in terms of an aggressive approach and in terms of not really knowing what a strike zone was for ("Wait...there's a ball FOUR?").  We know the aggression itself hasn't disappeared--the man is still swinging at 40 percent of pitches that are thrown outside the strike zone.  The difference is what he does to balls that are actually hittable.

Inside Edge also grades on plate discipline which, not surprisingly, Delmon has failed with flying F's over '08 and '09.  This year he's actually not failing.  His chase percentage with two strikes as gone from 62 percent in 2008 (or, automatic out) to 44 percent this season.  Is it good?  Hell no, but it's improving, and the league average is still 36 percent.  There's also a sub-category for non-competetive swing percentage, or basically chase percentage for pitches that aren't close to the strike zone.  Here Delmon has improved as well, with a much more palatable 26 percent.  It's still not up to league average, but it puts a bit of a positive spin on the overall chase numbers.

Of course we're only halfway through the year, and it still remains to be seen whether or not Young can keep up this apparent improvement over the course of a full season, but the signs are encouraging.  Harder-hit balls, more balls put in play, better at-bats (in the clutch and in general)...I'd say there are a lot of things to be cautiously optimistic about.

Unless of course a southpaw starts dealing him breaking balls low and inside.