ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 10: Delmon Young #21 of the Detroit Tigers warms up prior to Game Two of the American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 10, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The Detroit Tigers are playing Delmon Young in the ALCS, even though he suffered an oblique injury in the final game of the ALDS and was initially left off the ALCS roster. This is a risk, and I'm not sure that it's worth it.
Here are the necessary facts: Delmon Young suffered an oblique injury during Game 5 of the Tigers/Yankees ALDS. He was initially left off the Tigers' ALCS roster entirely, so as not to jeopardize his availability for the World Series (long story). However, Magglio Ordonez then aggravated an old ankle injury, and is done for the season. So to take his place, the Tigers have turned to ... Delmon Young, who is in uniform and starting for the Tigers in Monday's Game 2.
Now, being able to pencil Young's name back in the lineup, surely, is a big lift for the Tigers. Young slugged .458 with Detroit during the season after coming over in a trade; against the Yankees in the Division Series, he went 6-for-19 with three home runs. From Detroit's perspective, Young is an important bat, so it's important to have him back.
Two things, though. For one, he's Delmon Young. Let's not make too much of what this guy brings to the table. This season, he posted a .302 OBP. Over the past three seasons, he's posted a .316 OBP, and a 104 OPS+. He is some approximation of an average hitter, and when you include the fact that he's pretty poor in the field, the overall package - at 100 percent - is mediocre.
For two, he's hurt. Which means he isn't going to be Delmon Young at 100 percent. After Young got injured, Jim Leyland told the media that Young might be good for Game 4 or Game 5, maybe. Now he's been rushed back. Which means the Tigers should expect even less than what a healthy Young might provide.
Remember, a healthy Young posted a .302 OBP. A healthy Young looked like this in the field just last week:
Now Young is not healthy. His oblique injury isn't severe - severe oblique injuries practically paralyze - but it hurts, which stands to inhibit Young's motion. That's bad for Young at the plate, and bad for Young in the field.
Is Delmon Young at less than 100 percent a better option than Andy Dirks? A big deal is being made about Young's availability because Young is a right-handed hitter, and three of the Rangers' four starters are southpaws. Dirks is a lefty. Don Kelly is a lefty. Clete Thomas is a lefty. Platoon-wise, Young is important. But the platoon advantage isn't everything. Sure, Dirks is at a disadvantage because he swings from the left side, but is the sum of Dirks' expected offense and defense better than the sum of Young's expected offense and defense? I think there's a compelling argument to be made.
Plus, there's also the risk that Young could make his oblique injury worse by playing through it. Oblique injuries nag. They heal slowly, and they can be aggravated. One bad throw, one bad swing, or hell, even a normal swing and Young could find himself finished for the remainder of the month. Playing him now is a risky maneuver.
I will, of course, defer to the Tigers and Jim Leyland. They're the ones in charge. They're the ones with the most information, and they're the ones who think Young is a worthy play with Ordonez out. They know more than I do, and they have good reasons for doing what they're doing. But personally, I'm not wild about this idea. It's one thing to have Young take Ordonez's place on the roster. His oblique injury isn't bad, and maybe he's better in a few days. But to have Young take Ordonez's place on the roster, and then to play him immediately, through discomfort? Maybe I haven't seen enough of Andy Dirks, and maybe Andy Dirks is really terrible, but I don't know. I just don't know.