I’ve been wrong with my opinions several times this year. I was unhappy that Brian Duensing had been used in critical situations this year, and he’s promptly responded with a 1.38 ERA, 2.93 FIP, and a .197 opponents batting average. I didn’t like the Twins re-signing Ron Mahay early this season, and he’s been even better than Duensing: 0.00 ERA, 1.26 FIP, .160 opponents batting average, and a 9.6 K/9 rate. I thought that the Twins would be just fine with Drew Butera as the backup catcher, even with his hitting woes, but he exceeded (in the wrong direction) my low expectations by starting the season with a .118/.118/.118 hitting line.
As for Delmon Young…well, it feels like he jerks us around like a yo-yo. When he was first acquired, there were huge expectations of him. He didn’t hit so well after joining the team in 2008, and expectations went down. Then he turned it on in the 2nd half of the season, and expectations went up for the 2009 season. Young promptly repeated the process, which again frustrated the fans in the beginning of the season, but brought positive thoughts as he heated up in the 2nd half for the second consecutive season as a Twin. The excuses for his struggles sounded like we were mimicking Milkman Dead from Song of Solomon: You can’t blame him, he’s just young.
But before the 2010 season, Delmon decided that something had to change. He committed himself to staying in shape by losing nearly 30 pounds. Although his issues with taking advice from the coaching staff are well known, he’s also reworked his hitting stance. If you remember, he used to rotate the bat in his hands before the pitch, and now he’s switched to moving the bat up and down. He actually made this change midway through last season, but I can’t confirm that the change has helped him in any way. Lastly, although he still retains his aggressive approach at the plate, Delmon has vastly improved his plate discipline this year by drawing more walks and cutting down on the strikeouts. He already has 8 walks in 2010 (compared to 12 in ‘o9) and is on pace for only 60-some strikeouts, which would be a career-best by roughly 30 K.
Add it all up, and it seems like Young is finally figuring out how to perform in the major leagues on a consistent basis. He hit his first home run of the year during the first series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which inspired confidence that his first half slide would not happen this year. He then promptly slipped down to a low-.200s batting average, but still fans were happy to see that Delmon was off to a “hot” start. However, he’s been heating up lately, and after today’s 3-4 game, he’s now approaching a .290 batting average, which is right around his career average. Also, whether it’s from rediscovering his love of the game or because he can actually give 100% with that fat tire missing from his belly, he’s noticeably been sprinting all over the field, both on offense and defense. Overall, he’s made huge improvements this year, which has led to comments like these:
Honestly, I have nothing to rant about, I love the way Delmon is playing this year. He’s a pleasant surprise.
Sam said it perfect.
I love Skinny Fast Delmon. I have nothing else to say.
Delmon is one of my favorite Twins on this current roster. Behind Matty G. and Kubel…there’s Delmon. Anytime I get down on him I just think….”He’s still younger than you are.”
I am no longer embarassed to wear my Delmon shirt.
Well…at least for now.
As for myself…I’m not fully buying New Delmon yet. When he lost weight, Young told the media that he cut a meal out of his day. To you, this might sound like he was eating too much, but to me, I heard him say “I’m starving myself.” Maybe it’s my high school teacher mind kicking in, but I wasn’t too pleased to hear that he was using a method that thousands of teenagers are convinced as being a good way to lose weight. His reasoning was also a problem I had, as he said something along the lines of, “I wanted to look better in my uniform.” He didn’t want to become a better ballplayer. He didn’t want to extend his career. He wanted to look good.
Even if his disclosed intentions weren’t the best, he’s easily shown improvement this year. Though it’s still early, Delmon has been an asset on defense so far, according to UZR, after ranking as one of the worst outfielders the past 2 years. It’s also possible that a move out of the Metrodome and those pesky lights have helped him in the field. His offense has improved this year as well, and he even looks faster when he runs, though this may just be the fact that he’s actually trying to get somewhere in a hurry when he runs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely pleased that Delmon has made improvements in his game and he’s been an asset to the Twins, especially with Jason Kubel’s cold start to the season. I just feel that it’s still a bit early to let one month of one season outweigh the pair of first halfs from the previous two seasons. Right now, I wouldn’t mind if the Twins released or traded him. There are plenty of outfielders coming up the minor league system in the next few years, and although Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are more likely to leave due to their age, at least they have shown more success in the majors than young Mr. Young. Oh well, I can dream. Delmon’s here to stay, and there’s nothing I can do about it except continue with my comments on Twitter. But if he keeps up his success this season…well, he can join Brian Duensing and Ron Mahay as the team of Twins players that have made me eat my words.