What does it take to be the Comeback Player of the Year? Well, for starters, you have to be a good player at one point. Generally, you have to be a good player for a sustained period of time. Chris Young fits that mold. He was a 1-time All Star and had a pretty solid career from 2005-2007. Then, with injuries, his innings started to taper off over the next few years. He pitched only 76 innings in 2009, and no more than 25 innings the following two years. He came back with the Mets to pitch 115 innings in 2012, but ended up losing all of his 2013 season to injury and ineffectiveness.
Coming into Spring Training this year, he got an invite from the Washington Nationals. After they traded for Doug Fister, he became expendable. Fortunately for the Mariners, this coincided with Randy Wolf rejecting our offer to be a 5th starter (in exchange for signing a contract with a 45-day clause that would allow us to cut him in the first 45 days without guaranteeing his full salary). Chris Young signed that contract, made the team, and the rest was history.
He started 29 games for the Mariners this year, and for the most part was a steady, calming influence for the rotation. The only other two starters to pitch a full season for us were Felix Hernandez and Roenis Elias; everyone else went down with injury at one point or another.
It’s pretty safe to say, without Chris Young in there, we wouldn’t have competed the way we did. We certainly wouldn’t have been in the hunt for a playoff spot to the last day of the season! His numbers:
165 innings, 12-9 record, 3.65 ERA, 108 strikeouts, 60 walks
He wasn’t quite All Star calibre, but I will take those numbers out of my fifth starter anytime! He was the slam dunk of all slam dunks when it comes to this award, and I’m glad he was recognized.
It’s a tough one to take too much pride in, though, as a fan. I mean, Chris Young was one of the five most important Seattle Mariners this year when it comes to our success (the other four, in no particular order: Felix, Cano, Seager, and Rodney), but it’s not like we have strong ties to this guy. He was a hired gun, of sorts. I’m sure he takes GREAT pride in his 2014 season, because it’s giving his career a second chance. But, for as important as he was, I don’t think the Seattle Mariners should bring him back, nor do I think they will.
I feel like there was a good bit of luck involved in his success. I mean, how could his numbers be sustainable when he’s throwing a fastball in the low 80s and he doesn’t really have a quality out pitch? The numbers back that up somewhat, with a .240 BABIP. That’s remarkably low for someone with his stuff.
In the end, I’ll always have fond memories of Chris Young, but let’s not go crazy in thinking that he’s worth keeping around long term.