Baltimore Orioles: Delmon Young – Guaranteed Playoffs


Sep 20, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Delmon Young (27) singles in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

If you came on to The Baltimore Wire today to see my previously-advertised mega-article on position by position analyses of the Baltimore Orioles over the past three years with a projection for 2015 … well … give me another day to get it finished.

Instead, for today, let’s talk some Delmon Young. After all, you know – the Baltimore Orioles are now guaranteed to be in the playoffs again in 2015 because they have signed the ultimate good luck charm in baseball.

How’s that for analysis? Pretty deep, eh?

Delmon Young has been well documented to be the best guarantor of playoff participation as can be found in baseball. It is now six years in a row, with four different teams – the Twins, Tigers, Rays, and Orioles.

He has played in a total of 11 series, but only once in the World Series, and that was a loss. So, I guess it logically could be argued that he is great luck for getting a team into the postseason, but not getting them to the top.

Surely there is a statistic to analyze this. After all, there is a statistic for everything else these days, and they don’t lie, do they?

My 1960s slide rule for calculating baseball stats

Before I touch the match to the fuse, let me say for the record that I love statistics in baseball. I was geeking out on them before most of you were born. I’m a nerd – I’ve even got a Ph.D. for God’s sake! I’ll pause while you make a list of sportswriters with the same …



My college son, while getting Christmas decorations out of the cellar, brought me a slide ruler he discovered there with a question, “What is this thing?”  I explained it to him, showed him how it worked, and then told him that it was my constant companion as a teenager for calculating batting averages even before pocket calculators were invented. So I love numbers.

But, I am not a fan of WAR – the sabermetric of “wins against replacement.”  I am not saying that it has no value; and I am not saying that there is not a good bit to be learned and gained from the complicated formulae that go into advanced metrics.

At the risk of losing everyone who has read even this far (and I’m going to get back to the Orioles in a moment), I don’t trust fully in WAR because it has a subjective beginning point of establishing what is the mythical definition of the replacement player. Along the way, other subjective criteria are used. From an excellent article by Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe that is critical of WAR, here is a definition of this simple concept:

"WAR combines a player’s Batting Runs Above Average (derived from a player’s True Average), BRR (Baserunning Runs), FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average), an adjustment based upon position played, and a credit from plate appearances based upon the difference between the ‘replacement level’ (derived from looking at the quality of players added to a team’s roster after the start of the season) and the league average."

A problem with WAR, in my humble opinion (and as detailed in this additional article) is the emphasis that it puts on defensive metrics, as commendable as the effort to value that side of the game is.

By now you are probably wondering how we got here from an opening discussion on Delmon Young as a rabbit’s foot. Well, if I’m going to be accused of being simplistic, I might as well go for it in a big way!

More from Baltimore Orioles


Well, some weeks ago I wrote an article on why the Orioles should certainly pass over Colby Rasmus and sign Delmon Young instead. When that article appeared in another location with a comment board there, I was excoriated for being overly simplistic in analysis by only looking at comparative batting averages (which was an overly simplistic analysis of my article!). My critic pointed out the higher career WAR numbers for Rasmus as compared to Young (quoting them wrongly as well).

There is no doubt that Rasmus is a better defender. He is much faster. He hits more home runs. But he struck out at a rate of 33% in 2014 while hitting .225, whereas Young hit .302 in critical situations on a regular basis and striking out in only 20% of plate appearances. I don’t need career WAR numbers to advise my evaluation, especially in light of the needs of the Orioles for DH in particular (no defense needed).

All to say – good job Dan Duquette in signing Mr. Young.

Next: The best clutch hitters are still with the Orioles?