Terry Collins isn’t losing it, though I can understand why some may think so.
As I arrived at the Citi Field press box each day for the just-completed four-game series in which the New York Mets entertained the St. Louis Cardinals, there at the top of Collins’ lineup was “22 E. Young, Jr.” To the left was EY’s season batting average, which on Thursday’s card was a mediocre .222.
What is Collins thinking, you might ask? Insanity is defined as trying the same action repeatedly while expecting a different result.
So what if Young can switch hit? What good is a base stealer who cannot buy a base hit? Why in the heck does he deserve to be atop any lineup?
The deficiency with the information presented on the Mets lineup card is the same as we have been dealing with in fantasy baseball for several decades. Of course, I am referring to the excessive focus on batting average at the expense of a more important and relevant measure, on-base percentage.
I will not go off into an impassioned argument here as to why your league should leave behind BA and adopt OBP. It is not because I don’t feel strongly about it, because I do. The reason is that I already know you are going to come around eventually. It is only a matter of time.
In the case of Mr. Young, the difference between the two measures is almost certainly why Collins keeps playing him every day – that and the injury to Juan Lagares, perhaps. Through his first 88 plate appearances of the season, Young has 12 walks to go with 17 hits. That adds 117 points to his current .224 batting average for an OBP of .341.
I am especially attuned to Young’s doings for another reason. He is a member of my National League Tout Wars squad. In fact, Young is my team’s second-best on-base man in the early going. He follows a really dark horse in Milwaukee second baseman Scooter Gennett at .348, a player that cost me just $3 on draft day.
Speaking of draft day, as we walked into the fishbowl at the Sirius/XM studios in Manhattan on March 22nd, one of the players for whom I most anticipated watching the bidding was Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton. Fame had preceded the speedster’s arrival in the major leagues, and it was justified.
After all, the 23-year-old did lead five different leagues in steals in the last four years. Hamilton paced all professional players with 101 steals in 2011 and his 155 in 2012 set a new single-season record at all levels. Following his call-up last September, the Mississippi native whet our appetites by leading the NL with 13 steals in 14 attempts (Young was second with 12).
Bidding expectations had also preceded NL Tout. Not only did each of we Tout warriors have access to our favored projections, we had also scrutinized other industry leagues that had preceded us. Hamilton had gone for $26 in CBS and $28 in LABR in drafts held before Tout.
While I wanted a stolen base anchor for my squad, I knew the price for Hamilton would be beyond my comfort level. Sure enough, he went for $22, though it was a comparative bargain. While that price was lower than the other industry leagues, I did not feel badly about missing out.
Though punting stolen bases can be done, that was not my plan coming in. It was to acquire a number of 10-15 steal players that would allow me to be competitive in the category. However, later in the draft, when bidding on Young abruptly ended with my $9 offer, I was delighted to get him. To me, Young is capable of leading the league in stolen bases and would be a far less liability in an OBP league than in a standard batting average format.
The 28-year-old lacks the shiny newness of Hamilton, and being a known quantity does not appeal to some. Young’s career OBP of .324 was satisfactory, but to be honest, what I found most interesting was his 38 steals in just 91 games after joining Collins’ Mets from Colorado last June.
It wasn’t just me. The main reason most fantasy owners bought either player in 2014 is basically a draw at this point. Their respective stolen base totals are very good - 10 for Young and nine for Hamilton. They trail just NL leader Dee Gordon, who has 12.
We are currently only about one-seventh of the way through the 2014 season, but so far, Young is out-pacing Hamilton in every other aspect of performance, however. While the Reds’ speedster has 17 hits like Young, one big difference is that the Reds star has drawn just three free passes in his first 77 plate appearances.
The resulting OBP gap between the two is a whopping 75 points.
That alone is of significant value, but there is a side benefit, as well. In what is hardly a news flash, being on base more often leads to more runs being scored. In fact, Young has doubled Hamilton’s total in the runs category to date this season.
This gulf between the two may or may not hold for the remainder of the season, but consider this illustration in the broader scope. If you are in an OBP league, do not let the category get away from you. With enough balanced but perhaps a bit under-the-radar players like Eric Young on your roster, you can reap a potential advantage in OBP and runs as well as steals.
If you don’t believe me, ask Terry Collins.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.