Oh, to be Young (and a winner) again

Seattle Mariners pitcher Chris Young is having one heck of a comeback season.

Chris Young

CabreraYoung, who has dealt with a multitude of injuries throughout his career, picked up his 12th win on Sunday and matched his career high for wins in a season. He previously won 12 in 2005 with the Texas Rangers.

The win moved the Mariners ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the wild-card standings and continued an impressive August run.

Young is 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA and an 0.91 WHIP in his past 12 starts. He has won four straight decisions.

What makes him so good?

As Fangraphs writer Bradley Woodrum noted, Young is inducing an inordinate number of infield popups, which is a notable factor in his success.

But also significant is a midseason change in Young’s strikeout and walk numbers.

Chris Young in 2014

In his first 13 starts of the season, Young struck out 35 and walked 32 in 73 1/3 innings. In this 12-start run, he’s struck out 57 and walked only 15. He has also cut his home runs allowed from 11 to eight.

Young wins with a fastball that averages only 85.2 mph this season, a speed faster than only Mark Buehrle (83.6) and R.A. Dickey (81.9) among ERA-title qualifiers.

But opposing hitters are only batting .238 against the pitch in 2014, which ranks 11th best in the majors.

Young typically thrives in big ballparks. He has a 2.35 ERA at Safeco Field. Sunday’s win at Comerica Park (also relatively spacious) dropped his road ERA to 3.93.

How he won Sunday

Young allowed no runs in six scoreless innings in Sunday’s victory, struck out four and walked only one. He kept his outfielders busy, as he induced 13 fly balls and pop ups, only one of which went for a hit. He also limited line drives and yielded only one.

Young got outs by effectively working the top and bottom of the strike zone. He threw 41 pitches in the upper third of the zone or higher, netted six outs and yielded only one baserunner. His 33 pitches in the lower-third of the zone (or below the knees) netted eight outs (one shy of his season high) and permitted only two baserunners.

Super starters

Mariners starting pitchers have allowed three runs or fewer in each of their past 15 games and seven earned runs over 54 2/3 innings (1.15 ERA) over their past nine games.

The Mariners now lead the majors in overall ERA (2.94) and rank second in starter’s ERA (3.20). Their starters' ERA of 1.69 in August is easily the best in the majors.