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Oh Very Young

Twelve different pitchers have started games for the New York Mets this season. Chris Young has been neither the best nor the worst of the lot, nor, within a universe that briefly included Chris Schwinden, the most obscure among them.

But he is he one I keep forgetting.

I’ve all but forgotten Chris Young is in the Mets’ starting rotation 18 different times, which may say something about me, yet probably says at least a little about him. Physically, at 6’ 10”, he’s a hard guy to miss. Substantively, he’s difficult to pick out in a crowd. His ERA has floated mostly in the fours during the second half of 2012. The Mets have lost 13 of his 18 starts overall. He throws pitches that are hit for mostly anonymous fly balls, with the painful exception of a few that keep flying beyond the reach of his mostly anonymous outfielders. One assumes his sandwich-board of a back is a familiar sight on stadium video screens across the National League in those montages that feature home runs by the home team. You don’t see his face, just YOUNG 55 and…WOW, WHERE DID THAT BALL LAND?

His Sunday in Milwaukee encapsulated the Chris Young experience in 2012. He pitched well enough to win for a club capable of clobbering the opposing pitcher. The Mets, however, aren’t that club. Ryan Braun extended his BrewerVision highlight reel by two long home runs off Young, and Aramis Ramirez added a spiffy clip on his own behalf. Each was a solo blast, which indicates Young was pretty much doing his job except for the moments he didn’t do it that great. It added up to three runs until there were two out in the seventh, which is when Terry Collins came and took the ball. The score was three-nothing. The score would stay three-nothing. The Mets and Young were the ones who would wind up with the nothing [1].

The phrase that leaps to mind is “serviceable outing”. When Chris Young is on, he’s all right. In baseball, that’s not uncommon. The major league season commences with approximately 150 starting pitchers slotted to take regular turns in 30 starting rotations. Almost immediately, 30 sets of plans change. Outings aren’t serviceable. Pitchers aren’t indestructible. Rehabilitations proceed out of view. Depth is tested. The Mets’ projected starting five of Santana, Dickey, Niese, Gee and Pelfrey ceased to exist in late April. Together, those five guys have started 98 games, leaving roughly a third of the team’s schedule to date to arms that weren’t necessarily counted on to play a leading role in any Mets game in 2012.

More than Schwinden (two starts), Miguel Batista (five) or any of the youngsters who have spanned the hope spectrum from Matt Harvey (nine) to Jeremy Hefner (who?), Chris Young represented the Mets’ depth chart, specifically the segment of it directly beneath the horizontal line that separated PELFREY from utter uncertainty. Young was Sandy Alderson’s provisionally formulated Plan “B” when he signed him coming off anterior capsule surgery during Spring Training. They didn’t need him when April began. They could’ve used somebody like him by May. They got him back in June.

Young went out and proved himself…serviceable. That is to say he pitched regularly, he stayed healthy and sometimes all his fly balls remained in the park, though occasionally their journeys met fewer obstacles than had a pitcher who’s been battling injuries and their aftereffects for several years. Chris Young is unusually tall, but, from the vantage point of the stands and TV, hasn’t seemed particularly imposing. He’s a 4-8 pitcher on a 66-80 team. He’s not the reason the Mets’ season has been in the shop since July. He’s not the part your mechanic has been waiting on. He’s been installed to get the job done. The job is to finish a 162-game season, whatever the results. Young has done that. It’s admirable from a distance (as is the testimony of rookie pitchers like Collin McHugh regarding the veteran counsel Chris has offered without being asked) and it may be encouraging for Young personally [2], but it’s not particularly exciting.

It’s eight hits over six-and-two-third innings. It’s three home runs. It’s two strikeouts with no walks. It’s 101 pitches. It’s a 3-0 loss. It’s nothing to get excited about at this stage of the season. It’s nothing to get excited about when considering next season. It’s the Mets not at their best; not at their worst; not remotely, as they provide sustenance to yet another September contender, at their most exciting.

It’s Chris Young. Now I remember.