Projecting Kevin Youkilis

Finally, we can admit that Kevin Youkilis was a good player. Once upon a time, the third baseman could guarantee you a nearly .400 OBP, he could hit homeruns, and he could play some respectable defense. At 33 years old, Youkilis is now crossing sides of a staunch rivalry, he’ll now be a New York Yankee. It’s hard to imagine the guy with the ridiculous facial hair and batting stance heading over to the Bronx, but the Yankees, nor Youkilis, have much of a choice.

Youkilis has regressed over the last year, which was part of the reason he was so available to the Yankees on a one-year deal. There’s some hope that 2012 was a fluke. In 2011, Youkilis hit for a .258/.373/.459 slash, good for a 126 wRC+, as well as a 3.7 fWAR. His value plummeted in 2012, when he had just a 1.3 fWAR and a .235/.336/.409 slash, split between the Red Sox and White Sox.

With the Red Sox, the righty slumped considerably in the first 3 months of baseball. He hit just .233/.315/.377 with 14 walks, 39 strikeouts, and 4 homeruns in 165 plate appearances. Most of this can be attributed to a nagging lower back injury he dealt with in April, and after he returned from a DL stint, he boosted his OPS from .635 to .736.

After being traded from the Red Sox to the White Sox, Youkilis went on a month long tear where he hit .315/.407/.534, doubling his homerun count, and nearly doing the same with his walks. On July 19th, the third baseman began to again experience discomfort, but this time he was day-to-day with a tight hamstring. Then he sprained his ankle on July 25th. He continued to play, despite his leg issues, and had another strong month of August, hitting .244/.365/.488. He finally went cold again in September, and finished his season with a 102 wRC+.

2012 was far from a normal season for him, as the injuries hit him hard and early. What isn’t normal is his drop in BABIP. From a career .322 BABIP, Youkilis had just a .268 batting average on balls in play last season. The batted ball rates largely remained the same by the end of the season, which is not what you expect with a fluctuation in BABIP. Breaking it down by batted balls, Youkilis hit .203 on grounders, .229 on flies, and .681 on line drives. Over his career, he held a much higher batting average all around, with a .245 on grounders, .280 on fly balls, and .721 on line drives.

Before we say he was unlucky, there are a few explanations for these regressions. The drop off from hits off of ground balls could be caused by slower speed. The drop off in batting average on flyballs could be caused by moving from a stadium with the Green Monster, to a more honest US Cellular. With that said, Youkilis never had much speed, and US Cellular field is hardly a pitcher’s park, so there’s a good chance a lot of his 2012 season came from bad luck.

Looking at his peripherals, Youkilis doesn’t seem to be hitting any different than he was in the past. I wouldn’t expect him to be a 6 fWAR player like he was in 2008 or 2009, but there’s enough data to optimistically say he’ll bring between 3-4 wins. In a depleted third base market, that’s not such a bad deal for $12 million.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

7 thoughts on “Projecting Kevin Youkilis

  1. roadrider

    so there’s a good chance a lot of his 2012 season came from bad luck.

    So his one unlucky season came when he got older and more injury prone? What a coincidence!

  2. Chris

    I don’t buy his 2012 season as bad luck, he hit terribly against RHP and on the road all year long. This would suggest a player, when not getting the benefit of a hitter’s park or having the advantage of facing a pitcher of the opposite hand, is aging and thus regressing. It’s also not smart to write it off as injuries when Youk has become a player that injuries are a big part of his aging problem. I believe he’s averaged around 115 games a year over the past 3 seasons, he’s not likely to suddenly stop being plagued by injuries in 2013 playing his more difficult defensive assignment.

    On top of all that we’re talking about a player who has seen his wOBA fall in 3 consecutive seasons whole watched his walk rate decline, and his strikeout rate rise over the course of that span as well. His BABIP has also fallen in 4 consecutive years, which suggests it’s more related to decline in skills rather than one unlucky season.

    If Youkilis gives us a slash line similar to what he did with Chicago .236/.346/.425 it would, in my opinion, be worth the 1 year deal and be about as good as he’s capable of over the course of a full season at this point.

  3. hawaii dave

    Granted, there may not be very many other options, but Youk will not be of any great benefit to my beloved Yankees this year. My bet is that he will hit .240 again with his 16 homers and 60 RBIs and serviceable 3rd base. But after the Rod comes back, what is he? You certainly do not want him giving Tex a break against righties, which puts Tex up as a lefty…cuz Youk can’t hit righties. And you can’t put him in for Tex against lefties, cuz thats when Tex improves, as a righty. Kinda 6 of one, half a dozen of the other. And Youk can’t play 2nd or SS.
    But Youk is insurance if the Rod or Tex gets injured. I suppose we’ll be relieved to have him if one of them goes down…he can be our Andrew Jones and bat against lefties…that will be an improvement. And he has a history of being clutch, thats always exciting.

    Personally, I would have just put Nunez at 3rd, errors and all and saved the money for better things. Nunez can hit and he is righty. And the fielding can be worked on. But i’m not GM.

    • Chris

      I hate the idea of “clutch” players, all the numbers suggest guys can come up big in clutch situations but that it’s not a skill. Even players who are top of the league in so called clutch spots one year tend to drop off significantly the following season, no one really has proven to be a consistent year in and year out “clutch” player. It’s simply a myth that people assign to certain players to build them up.

      Even guys who hit well in the playoffs tend to just be guys who statistically always hit good pitchingh, Jeter is an example of this. It’s not that he’s “clutch” it’s just that he hits good pitchers better than most in the regular season and it carries over. A guy like Granderson gets a label as “unclutch” because he’s not great in the postseason, but if you look at the numbers he’s a guy who hits good pitching below average in the regular season and it carries over.

      • hawaii dave

        Chris, you just ruined my only wrinkle of hope that Youk can be of some value. Well, maybe he can be a good righty DH.

        • Chris

          Sorry about that I just hate how clutch gets thrown around in baseball terms, all the evidence goes against the idea.

          With that said he will be of value, he won’t be the .300/.400 AVG/OBP player of old but doesn’t have to be. If he just puts up similar numbers to his time in Chicago until Alex comes back he’s worth it, that would be better on both sides of the ball than Nunez would do. The road numbers from last year scare me but I’ll write it off as a fluke for now.

  4. nettles

    He’s a jackass, but now he’s OUR jackass!

    I would have been more excited about this deal several years ago, but not so much now. Then again, I didn’t think much of the Eric Chavez signing and that actually worked out better than hoped for.

    Wonder how Youk and Joba will get along???

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