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Delmon Young: Championship No. 5 Hitter (?)

Otto Greule Jr

The Tampa Bay Rays have a reputation, and it's growing by the day.

Especially today. Today -- the last day of September, in case you're not reading this today -- Delmon Young is batting cleanup fifth for the Rays in their biggest game of the season. Which also happens to be their 163rd game of the season.

Delmon Young, as you'll recall, has had his problems. His anger problems, his legal problems, and most lately his performance problems. Over these last three seasons, Young has been a below-average hitter, which is not a good thing to be when you're also a below-average fielder and a below-average runner. So below average, in virtually every phase of the game, that the also-ran Phillies actually released Young in the middle of August.

So of course the Rays picked him up. Because that's what they do. They pick up castoffs. But what makes the Rays different is that they're actually good, and smart. They don't do things capriciously. Or at least we guess they don't. So we might guess they had some reason for signing Young. Just as we might guess they had good reasons for acquiring Roberto Hernandez and James Loney and Jamey Wright and Luke Scott and Josh Lueke. All of whom had been regarded as problem children or retirement fodder.

Do the Rays have some magic touch with these sorts of gentlemen?

  • Hernandez (the ex-Fausto Carmona, of course) lost his spot in the rotation because he went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA. To be fair, he also posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career, and was undone largely by poor luck on batted balls;
  • Loney's hitting .300 on the nose while playing every day -- and not sitting against left-handed pitching, as I would have recommended -- and sporting his best OPS+ since 2007;
  • 38-year-old Jamey Wright, who might well have been out of the majors a long, long time ago, easily has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career;
  • Luke Scott and Josh Lueke both struggled badly this season.

Oh, and Delmon Young? In 22 games, he's controlling the strike zone better than ever before. It's only 22 games. It probably doesn't mean anything. Probably doesn't mean anything at all.

But you know, you see enough Delmon Youngs and James Loneys and Fernando Rodneys and Jeff Keppingerses, and you do start wonder if maybe the Rays know some things the rest of us just don't.

For much more about the Rays and Game 163, please visit SB Nation's DRays Bay.