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Chris Young’s New Approach

After a surprisingly hot start to the season, Chris Young went cold in May. Yet, shortly after taking on a starting outfield position in Jacoby Ellsbury’s absence, Young began to hit again, and he’s batted .370/.382/.593 in June. Young has altered their approach at the plate this month, so let’s take a look to see what he’s doing differently.

Young has been hitting about 8% more line drives this month than he did in April and May. He’s also begun to pull pitches more—nearly a 10% increase—indicating that he’s doing a better job of getting around on the ball. Young has objectively made better contact, as his percentage of hard hit balls is nearly 7% higher in June.

Not only has Young made better contact at the plate—he’s also made more of it. Young only put the ball in play about 75.6% of the time he swung at it—just about in line with his career average of 77.6%. Young has had only two seasons in his career in which he’s made contact over 80% of the time, and he’s never made contact more than 82% of the time. Yet, in June, Young’s managed to hit 86.3% of the ball’s he’s swung at.

How exactly has this come about? Young has, believe it or not, channeled his inner Yogi Berra and has become a bad-ball hitter. He now swings at pitches outside the zone about 4% more of the time—32%, up from 28%–but he makes contact with those pitches an astounding 72.4% of the time, a 24% increase over the first two months of the season. This has been accompanied by a 9% decline in the number of pitches he’s swung at inside the zone, but he makes much more contact with those pitches as well.

Overall, Young swings at roughly the same amount of pitches that he has for most of the season, but since many of those pitches are now out of the zone, he walks less. However, since he makes contact with many more of those pitches, he also strikes out less. And since he has been able to hit the ball harder, and hit for more line drives, he has been able to collect more base hits. Young has been a frequent victim of the strikeout throughout his career, as he’s struck out in 22.5% of his career plate appearances. However, in June, he’s been able to limit this aspect of his game, as he’s only struck out 11% of the time that he’s come to the plate. It’s no wonder, then, that, according to wRC+, Young has been 71% better than league average this month.