Since Joe Mauer's return to the Twins' lineup on May 1, we fans have been witness to an incredible hot streak -- easily the most impressive I've ever seen. Yet, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we've also seen one of the most brutal hitting droughts in memory. Over the course of this season, and over the past month or so especially, Delmon Young has been absolutely abysmal.
This post isn't a redux of the tired Young vs. Gomez argument, as Gomez hasn't exactly been a world-beater at the plate in his own right. But Young's at-bats as of late have been mind-bogglingly terrible, and the poor approach has been reflected in his results. Over the past calendar month, Young has gone 10-for-55 (.182) with zero extra-base hits, three walks and 24 strikeouts. He's grounded into three double plays during that span. It's hard to imagine a rougher stretch at the plate.
Particularly troubling is the absurdly high strikeout rate. Young has always been somewhat prone to striking out, with a 17.8 percent major-league K-rate entering 2009, but this season he's been whiffing at an astronomical rate. With 41 strikeouts in 125 plate appearances, Young's '09 strikeout rate stands at 32.8 percent, and over the past month it's been 40.7 percent.
With his inability to put the ball in play with any regularity, Young has been limited to a paltry .231 batting average despite being relatively lucky on balls in play (.342 BABIP). He's got only four hits in his past 41 at-bats and the strikeouts are piling up more than ever. Young looks completely lost at the plate and he's showing no signs of snapping out of it.
Of course, what must be noted is that the majority of those 41 at-bats have come after Young's return from a leave of absence due to his mother's death. Prior to his trip to California to be with his mother in her final days, Young was batting .277 with a 648 OPS and a 24.4 percent strikeout rate. Those aren't good numbers but they aren't disastrous either. Since returning to the team after his mother's passing, Young has hit .098 and has struck out 21 times in 42 plate appearances -- 50 percent! He's fanned multiple times in seven of those nine games.
Without question, losing a mother (particularly at the age of 23) can turn a person's life upside down and make it impossible to focus on anything, particularly playing a sport. As such, Young's current mega-slump is at least partially -- if not totally -- excusable and understandable. What's not excusable is that his name continues to be written into the lineup everyday while he digs himself into a deeper and deeper offensive hole. Young was held out of the starting lineup yesterday for only the third time in 11 games since his return.
I think it's a well documented fact that I'm not a big fan of Mr. Young, but he's not as bad as his recent numbers suggest. In watching him listlessly flail away at the plate, it's pretty clear that he's not really there mentally right now, which is totally understandable given his circumstances. He needs some time to get his head straight. A stint on the bench might work, but would also be tough to work out given that the Twins are already short on healthy outfielders. The better bet would be to place him on the disabled list for a while, although I don't know what the official rules are as far as using the disabled list for mental health issues. (Dontrelle Willis was DL'ed by the Tigers earlier this season for anxiety problems; perhaps the Twins could make a similar move?)
Whichever way they want to go about it, the Twins need to get Young out of the lineup for a while. And once he's got his mind right, he should return to his rightful spot as fourth outfielder.