PEORIA, Ariz. -- A study inside his 2006 numbers reveals that San Diego Padres right-hander Chris Young put together a debut season in the National League worthy of another Young -- Cy. Consider: Among all pitchers in the Major Leagues, Young was the hardest to hit. His .206 batting average by opponents was the lowest in the game among pitchers delivering at least 162 innings. American League leader and Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana held hitters to a .216 average. NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb was hit for a .246 average. Consider: Young was third in the league, behind Chris Carpenter and Webb, and sixth in baseball in baserunners allowed per nine innings at 10.49.
Consider: Against left-handed batters, a minimum 125 faced, Young was second in the Major Leagues in average allowed at .175. Florida's Joe Borowski, who threw 109 2/3 fewer innings than Young's 179 1/3, was the leader at .167. Consider: With runners in scoring position, only the great Santana, by a razor-thin margin, was tougher than Young, the 6-foot-10 former NBA prospect from Princeton. Young held hitters to a .176 average with men on second and/or third, while Santana cut them down at a .174 clip. Jake Peavy, Young's moundmate, was ninth in the NL in this category at .228, better than Webb. "It's the same thing I feel about a guy who hits well with runners in scoring position," Padres manager Bud Black said of this final stat. "They have that ability, that game awareness, to realize, 'Hey, I've got to notch it up a little bit to score that run or get that out.' "I hope that continues with Chris. It was a great start. But that doesn't surprise me from watching him as a Texas Ranger [in 2005], studying him and talking to him. "His ability to bring his mind and aptitude out to the field and execute pitches is something that's a big advantage for him. He has a good feel for pitching." A voracious reader with wide-ranging tastes, Young doesn't explore statistics in any great depth and wasn't aware of all these numbers. "When I have runners in scoring position," he said, "I try first to go for the strikeout, and next I try to get guys to hit popups. I've been able to do that, and I think that's why I've had some success in those situations." This points clearly to his ability to focus in crisis and make the best of bad situations, a skill critical in the success of any athlete. As intensely competitive as anyone in a uniform, Young recalls a challenge in his college basketball career that he carries with him now, drawing on it in the heat of the moment.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.