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Michael Young contributing to awful Phillies defense
by Scott Butler 7/7/13

The headline for last night's blowout loss on phillies.com was "Kendrick gets knocked around by Braves." Kendrick's line supports that claim, as KK allowed 6 runs in 5 innings. But the more appropriate headline might be "Kendrick struggles and defense lets him down."

The box score shows only one Phillies error (Chase Utley), but it easily could have been three errors and two by Michael Young. If the fans were official scorers, they certainly would have charged Young with two E-5's. After his second misplay in the fifth, fans directed some boos towards Young and later delivered a mocking cheer when he made a play to end the fifth.

The Phillies defense is tied for 14th in baseball this season and its effect on the team cannot be overlooked. The Phillies have three starters who are defensive liabilities (Howard, Michael Young, and Delmon Young) and two players who can be considered slightly below average defenders (Utley and Revere). Hard to believe Domonic Brown is probably the third best fielder on the team!

The decline of the Phillies as a team coincides perfectly with a decline defensively. The Phillies averaged the fourth ranked defense in baseball (4.2) during their five straight playoff seasons. That ranking dropped to 13th last season and 14th this season.

Here's a look at the Phillies defense each season under Charlie Manuel:

Phillies team defense
Year Fld % MLB Rank
2005 .985 T5
2006 .983 T15
2007 .986 T3
2008 .985 T8
2009 .987 T3
2010 .986 T6
2011 .988 T1
2012 .983 T13
2013 .985 T14

One of the biggest defense liabilities this season has been Michael Young at third base. Young has the 7th worst fielding percentage among 19 qualifying third basemen this season and in reality he should rank worse if you factor in his limited range. Young has only been charged with six errors this season, but it could easily be double the amount if you consider how many balls he does not reach or balls that are ruled hits because he dove and missed a ball most fielders would handle cleanly.

To demonstrate just how bad his defense is over at third base, let's compare his fielding stats to the five starting third basemen for Charlie Manuel:

Year Player G GS Inn Ch PO A E Fld% Ch/In Ch/G
2005 Bell 150 148 1296.2 430 105 304 21 .951 .332 2.91
2006 Bell 90 88 781.1 255 55 186 14 .945 .326 2.90
2007 Nunez 113 51 593.2 225 41 175 9 .960 .379 4.41
2008 Feliz 129 106 978.1 304 73 223 8 .974 .311 2.87
2009 Feliz 155 150 1342.1 437 110 312 15 .966 .325 2.91
2010 Polanco 123 121 1075.1 351 88 258 5 .986 .326 2.90
2011 Polanco 118 115 1044.2 345 78 259 8 .977 .330 3.00
2012 Polanco 80 72 664.2 207 57 148 2 .990 .311 2.88
2013 Young 73 72 642.1 163 39 118 6 .963 .254 2.26

Although his fielding percentage is better than David Bell and Abraham Nunez, his chances per inning is 107 points lower than the next lowest and his chances per game is 61 points lower than the next lowest. Taken over an entire season, that is a difference of almost 100 less chances. The drop off compared to Placido Polanco is frightening, and I have too much respect for Young to relate the comparison.

Young's defense should not come as much of a surprise considering his age and the fact that he has not played third base for any significant time for three years. It still hurts the team nonetheless.

Just using last night as an example demonstrates the impact on a single game. Young's misplay in the fifth indirectly resulted in two runs scoring and changed the score from 4-1 to 6-1, but it affected even more: it changed Kendrick's line to 4 runs in five innings vs. 6 runs and a jump from a 7.20 ERA for the game to a 10.08 ERA, five extra pitches, and maybe an earlier shower.

When deciding whether you want the Phillies to be buyers or sellers, let Michael Young serve as an example of the importance of defense in the equation. Even if the Phillies hit better, Hamels pitches better, and the bullpen improves, the Phillies have a bad defensive team.

If the Phillies somehow do not become sellers at the trading deadline and make a second half push, they cannot afford to give away games. With players like Young and Young on the field, the defense will likely cost them those one or two precious wins to keep them out of the playoffs. Hopefully Ruben Amaro considers this when he decides whether or not to pull the trigger at the deadline...

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