A strange thing happened during the first game of the American League Championship Series over the weekend. It didn't revolve around Derek Jeter breaking his ankle although this is an intriguing story line for the media to follow. For Twins fans, a man familiar to their organization became the all-time leader in postseason home runs for a team with a history that stretches back to the beginning of the 1900's. There have been some rough seasons as part of the Tigers history but Delmon Young stands alone on top of the leader board for most long balls with a Detroit jersey on when the games matter the most.
The man Young passed on the list, Craig Monroe, isn't exactly entrenched in the lore of the Tigers. It doesn't seem likely that either one of these men will be getting a bronze statue erected in the outfield of Comerica Park. All of this considered, this is a team that has been to the World Series nine times and they have won the title on four different occasions. The team has also been in the playoffs in 14 different years so there has to be some reason for Delmon being able to reign supreme in the history of Tigers sluggers.
One reason the postseason home run list for the Tigers might be a little unpopulated could be the fact the team was really bad during most of the steroid era. The Tigers won the World Series in 1984 and lost to the Twins in the 1987 ALCS and it went downhill from that point. The franchise lost over 100 games in 1989 and 1996 and it would get worse in the early 2000's with the team having back-to-back 100 loss seasons. This also included a season where the club lost 119 games. From 1987 to 2006, there were no playoff appearances for the Tigers and there were plenty of home runs flying out of ballparks across the baseball world during this time period.
Since the Twins parted ways with Mr. Young around the trade deadline in 2011, his career with Detroit has been anything but spectacular. He has played 191 regular season games with the Tigers and he is batting average is .268 during that time. As with most of his career, there have been glimpses of power as he has 26 home runs and 32 doubles in his 786 plate appearances. He doesn't take walks so he gets on base less than a third of the time and it's hard to imagine that the former first overall pick has lived up to expectations for any of the franchises he has played for in his seven year career.
The power-slugging version of Delmon Young didn't show in October during his time in Minnesota. In his two-playoff series as a member of the Twins, he went 5-for-24 which translates to a .208 batting average and he managed a double and a triple. His first taste of the playoffs in 2009 was horrendous as he finished the series 1-for-12 with five strikeouts. Both of these series were against the Yankees and it looked like Delmon was following the other members of the Twins in his struggles against the Bronx Bombers.
The October version of Delmon Young with the Tigers seems to have a little bit of a different feel to him. Since being traded to Detroit, Young has turned his bad playoff memories with the Twins into good feeling vibes in the Motor City. Last season, Young made up for lost time against the Yankees by going 6-for-19 in the series with three home runs and he even showed the ability to take a few walks. The next series was against Texas and even though he only managed two hits, they were both long balls. Five home runs in two series was quite the postseason for Young since he only managed 12 home runs during the regular season in 2011.
In the Tigers first playoff series of 2012, Young didn't go deep but he had a couple of RBI in victories for his club. His first game versus the Yankees on Saturday night made it look like he was starting right where he left off against them in 2011. He was pulled in the last inning for a defensive replacement but he finished the contest 3-for-6 with a home run, a double, and six RBI. On Sunday, he added to his RBI total by knocking in one of the three runs for Detroit. The Tigers are inching closer to the World Series and it looks like Young might be one of the reasons for their success in October.
The Twins outfield situation was one the least things for the club to worry about so it's not like fans are clamoring to see Young back in the Twin Cities. His play in the regular season has been the same old Delmon Young; he can't play defense, he doesn't take walks, and his power is spotty. The small sample size of the postseason can make anyone look like a legend and it will be interesting to see what someone is willing to pay for him when he hits the free agent market. For now, team's will have to settle for watching him hit balls out of the park in the postseason.