<
>

Numbers: Why Rangers need Michael Young

Matt Meyers at ESPN.com (Insider) took a look at some numbers as to reasons why the Rangers need Michael Young in 2011. Part of his evidence:

Young has long been deemed "overrated" by the sabermetric crowd -- he's basically viewed as a singles hitter who has benefited from playing in one of the best hitter's parks in baseball and is a mediocre defender. That's all true, but "overrated" doesn't mean useless. (His career OPS+ of 105 proves that he is an above-average hitter.) And based on the Rangers' current roster construction they should think long and hard about dealing the six-time All-Star. They're really going to need him.

Don't believe it? Check out these three numbers:

111

118

124

Those are the average number of games played over the last two seasons by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, respectively. Those are the Rangers' three best offensive players, and they get hurt with a great deal of frequency. At this point, Young's greatest asset is his versatility, which is a by-product of being moved around by the Rangers so often. And with a team filled with as many injury-prone players as the Rangers, he could be a huge asset.

On most teams, the utility guy is someone like Willie Bloomquist who can play a lot of positions, but can't hit a lick. Having a guy on the bench who can hit as well as Young gives the Rangers a lot of insurance in case Kinsler, Cruz or Hamilton gets injured. If Kinsler goes down, Young can go back to his original position. If Hamilton or Cruz is hurt, Young could play left field. No, he hasn't played left field in his career, but this is a club that put an aging Vladimir Guerrero in right field during the World Series, and he looked like a maimed thoroughbred out there. Young could surely hold down the fort while providing above-average offense. And even if, somehow, none of those injury-prone guys gets hurt, Young can spot them once a week to help ensure that they stay off of the disabled list.

As we've discussed at length over the last week, this club is better with Young on it. He gives the lineup a steady bat at DH and some critical insurance for injuries that are inevitable. Is there a blueprint to how to play Young? Meyers suggests the 2008 Cubs and former Young teammate Mark DeRosa.

Texas should borrow a page from the 2008 Chicago Cubs' playbook, when manager Lou Piniella started Mark DeRosa 80 games at second base, 32 games in right, 21 in left and 10 at third. That's a total of 143 starts. DeRosa hit .285/.376/.481 that year, and his versatility was a big reason why the Cubs led the NL with 97 wins. Between spotting Kinsler and Andrus regularly, not to mention starts at DH, first base and left field, there is no doubt that Young could end up with 500 plate appearances while also giving manager Ron Washington tons of late-inning flexibility.

Washington is going to make sure Young plays in the field as much as he can. No, Young's not going to be a regular. But Washington has done a great job of keeping all of his players as active as possible and that won't change with Young (assuming he's here), even if everyone is healthy. Anyway, I thought Meyers' piece was an interesting look at the numbers.