Posted January 30, 2014

A throwback, Michael Young retires after 14 major league seasons

Los Angeles Dodgers, Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers
Greg Nelson/SI

Michael Young retires with a .300 career batting average and 2,375 career hits. (Greg Nelson/SI)

Michael Young played in the wrong era. He was a hit machine with a high average. He was universally praised as a team leader and good clubhouse presence. He was passable in rudimentary defensive statistics such as fielding percentage and assists.

After playing 13 big league seasons with the Rangers and one final encore split between the Phillies and Dodgers, Young will retire rather than accept an offer to keep playing. The Rangers announced the news Thursday evening.

Young’s legacy is complicated by its timing. Had he played two or three decades ago, his career would have been hailed as great and almost Hall of Fame caliber. After all, he retires with a .300 batting average, 2,375 hits, seven All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove and at least 100 games’ experience playing each of the four infield positions, and as having served as de facto team captain in Texas. He helped the franchise to its first two World Series appearances, in 2010 and ’11.

Instead, Young became a lightning rod for sabermetric derision for all the things he wasn’t. (He didn’t help his cause when he told USA Today last spring, “In my opinion, I think stats are always overblown.”) He began his career in 2000, the height of the Steroid Era in which power numbers were inflated, rendering his high-average, moderate-power (an average of 14 homers per full big league season) offensive skills as seemingly inferior by comparison, especially since he played home games in hitter-friendly Texas. Similarly, Young averaged just 44 walks per season at a time when patience at the plate and on-base percentage were attributes growing in popularity.

He also played at a time when many statistical analysts were devaluing the unquantifiable impact of leadership and when defensive performance was becoming more quantifiable. Although the merit of those fielding metrics remains debatable, it was universal that Young fared poorly when evaluated by the Fielding Bible or with Ultimate Zone Rating. For instance, he won the 2008 AL Gold Glove at shortstop — his 11 errors were the fewest among league shortstops who logged at least 100 games — while costing his team four runs, according to the Fielding Bible, which ranked 26th in the majors that year. Other seasons had much higher totals of runs cost. In his defense, however, he was regularly moving around to accommodate others.

Young’s final season followed a contentious winter in which Texas — the franchise for whom he is the all-time leader in games, hits, doubles, triples and runs — traded him to the Phillies. Young was more than just a very good Ranger, though, with his accolades extending beyond the franchise leaderboard to the league leaderboard. His six 200-hit seasons are tied for second-most in the majors since 2000, trailing only Ichiro Suzuki and matching Derek Jeter. Young’s big league-leading 213 hits in 2011 were one of only seven 200-hit seasons in the majors over the last three seasons. His durability was commendable, too, with 11 seasons of 145 or more games since 2002, a total also exceeded only by Suzuki.

A proper summary of Young’s career is to call him a throwback, one whose success would have been more appreciated in a bygone era. He had his flaws as a player, mostly defensively, and may have had only one above-average tool — hitting for average — but he did it very well and for a long while. That, and his good character, made him a player of real value, no matter what his WAR says.

16 comments
S12
S12

As I always comment when modern defensive stats are cited, take one look at Keith Hernandez defensive stats, particularly his dWAR and then tell me they mean anything.

mahfuz001
mahfuz001

Those batting average and hits young overestimate considered as very good to excellent player.Very overrated player, he never won a championship. It's sad when you think about it.http://freshbeautystudio.com/ thanks for this nice post........

The_truth_hurts
The_truth_hurts

Very overrated player, never even won a championship. Its pathetic if you think about it.

w7
w7

not that this matters, but as it stands his career average is .299949.

if you add just one single hit to his career total and keep the same number of at-bats, his average goes up to .300075

regardless, an unbelievable player that always seemed to get it done, and one of the really good guys

berdosux
berdosux

Great hitter, very versatile, should be considered for a HoF bid but there are others in his era that will over shadow him.  Good career though.

PKpwnage
PKpwnage

Certainly will be honored by the Rangers. I think he'll be a fringe candidate for Cooperstown, at best, but all around a great player and even better man.

muser
muser

As classy as any player of his generation....

Horns8585
Horns8585

Great person, great player. He was a leader with true character. Glad he was a Ranger.

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

A fair assessment of his career.   Those who overvalue batting average and hits regard Young as a very good to great player.  Advanced stats show a different story, as his adjusted career OPS+ was just 104, overall WAR of 24.1, and, as noted, his defensive numbers were well below average, especially later in his career.   Really not even worthy of HOF consideration.  That said, he certainly put up impressive offensive numbers in 2005, 2009, and 2011, along with some other solid years.

train805
train805

Not many pro athletes would put up with the constant position shifts he did. He may have complained a bit, but as the team leader, he earned that right. I was hoping the yankees would have signed him to a 1 year incentive laden deal. Just his presence in the locker room would have been worth the contract.

mantle77777
mantle77777

@The_truth_hurts I think your pathetic for saying anything negative about a really good solid major league player with a .300 lifetime average, many 200 hit seasons and a stand up guy on and off the field.  Oh, I guess you would rather root for your steroid induced power hitting liers that played for the Cards in the last decade or so and their HOF manager that new all about it and ignored the problem.

goathammer.mf
goathammer.mf

@The_truth_hurts  so was Ozzie Smith.  Just because he was lucky enough to get one poke and live in baseball crazy town.  He was great defensively but if he played anywhere but St. Louis he isn't a HOF.

bcrowny
bcrowny

@DanaBunner  

Yeah i get it that he didnt have huge hall of fame numbers. You can throw WAR stats around and think for some reason that really matters. In an era of liars and cheats, Michael Young put up great numbers year after year and did it with humility and class.  He was loyal when most wouldnt have been to one team his entire career minus one year. almost 2,40 0 hits, 7 all-star appearances, a .300 career average and a gold glove are not "worthy of HOF consideration?" Gimme a break. Its not all about numbers DanaBunner and if you were a baseball fan the last 15 years, you should  know that. Now tell me what ARod, Sammy Sosa, Mark Mcgwire and Barry Bonds WAR was.....