Michael Young Is Posting Some Silly Numbers in 2013

Michael Young Is Posting Some Silly Numbers in 2013

Let me preface this by admitting up front that I liked the addition of Michael Young to the Phillies during this offseason. The club had a hole at third base that the front office was able to fill temporarily with a seven-time All Star for the low-price of two minor-league relievers, while the Rangers are paying all but $6 million of his salary no less.

Young leads the team with a .392 on-base percentage – good for 12th in the National League – and he’s been better than advertised at the hot corner at well. But damn, has he hit into a ton of double plays, or what?

After Young grounded into his league-leading 11th GIDP on Sunday, Gary Matthews remarked during the Phillies telecast that the 14-year veteran has had his share of them in 2013. That’s not entirely accurate, Sarge. He’s hit into several players’ shares of double plays so far this season. Erik Kratz and Ben Revere are second in the clubhouse with five apiece, or one less than Young between the two of them.

The single-season record is 36, set by Hall of Fame Red Sox slugger Jim Rice in 1984. Young has 11 through 44 games, putting him on pace to shatter Rice’s mark by five with 41.

Of course, grounding into the occasional routine double play is nothing new to the 36 year old. He finished in the top 10 in the AL five times since 2005, including as high as second in ’06 and ’12, the latter of which was among Young’s worst seasons in the big leagues. That said, he’s nearly halfway to his career high of 27 already barely a quarter of the way through the current campaign.

Part of the problem has been Young’s waning power. His penchant for making contact has led to a solid .294 batting average, but with just nine extra base hits – including a lone home run – he’s posting a .385 slugging percentage that ranks 56th out of 77 qualifiers in the NL.

Given the information, it might be time if not long overdue for Charlie Manuel to reevaluate where Young bats in the order, which has been in the two-through-five spots up to this point. It’s not so much his lack of power that’s the issue, although yeah, but how many potential rallies must be laid to rest before Jay-Z’s Heart of the City drops to track six or seven on the Citizens Bank Park set list?

Or maybe Young should hit number two more often, where he’s only made three starts this season. From there he could sacrifice Jimmy Rollins, allowing Chase Utley and in particular Ryan Howard to get more chances with runners on. Manuel has avoided stacking the two lefties back-to-back, but it’s another option at least until Young begins driving the ball a bit more.

With the 27th-ranked offense in Major League Baseball, the Phillies have to figure out ways to get more consistent production at the plate. When you have a player in the middle of your lineup getting doubled up once every four games, that’s the kind of thing that is sapping offensive potential.

Young has gotten a little better of late. Prior to Sunday, he had made 10 straight appearances without a GIDP, his longest such stretch in ’13. However, it reared its ugly head again in the sixth inning while the Fightins were struggling once again to light up the scoreboard. One batter later, Utley singled to left, which likely would have been enough to plate the speedy Revere had he been moved to second.

Would sacrificing Young have been the right move? The third baseman himself has discussed the benefits of bunting runners over in the past, as recently as the past two weeks actually in a story at MLB.com.

"At the end of the day, the game is played by guys with heartbeats," Phillies third baseman Michael Young said. "And a sacrifice bunt puts pressure on the defense and the pitcher. Maybe it's not always the right move, but I have a problem with saying it's never the right move. There are no absolutes in this game. If you're playing against a team that's struggling and you put a runner in scoring position late in the game, they're going to feel it a little more."

Obviously he means situationally, but I would describe Young’s historic GIDP rate as a situation of sorts. And while I honestly don’t believe he is destined to keep the current pace over the full 162, it’s not some minor detail the Phillies should continue to overlook, either.

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

uspresswire-bulls-dwyane-wade.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

uspresswire-sixers-ilyasova-rodriguez.jpg
USA Today Images

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals. Embiid was a game-high plus-27, which Brett Brown called "massive."

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and a 23-game road losing streak. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”