Dec
12

Kevin Youkilis and Yankee Stadium

By

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The contract is still pending a physical (hardly a slam dunk given his recent back problems), but the Yankees agreed to sign Kevin Youkilis to a one-year contract worth $12M yesterday. The deal shores up the third base position in the wake of Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury, and it also gives the team some lineup balance after losing the right-handed hitting Russell Martin and switch-hitting Nick Swisher. Youkilis has been trending in the wrong direction the last few years, but he is just one year removed from a 126 wRC+ season.

As a right-handed batter, there’s no doubt Youkilis benefited from playing in Fenway Park all those years. In fact, during his peak years from 2008-2010 (.308/.404/.560, 150 wRC+), no hitter was more productive when it came to pulling the ball. Youkilis hit .478/.476/.959 (280 wRC+) (!!!) when he pulled the ball during that three-year stretch, thanks in very large part to the Green Monster. As a right-handed batter, all he had to do was take aim for that sucker and watch routine fly balls go for doubles.

Youkilis won’t have that luxury in Yankee Stadium. It’s a good park for left-handed hitters thanks to the short right field porch, but left field and left-center field in particular are a different story. The park is almost exact league average when it comes to surrendering doubles and homers to right-handers according to the park factors at StatCorner, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means righties don’t get the same ballpark boost as lefties. Youkilis remains a pull hitter, with 47% of his balls in play going to left field this season and only 22% going the other way to right. Here’s his spray chart for the season (courtesy of Texas Leaguers)…

Most of his hits came to the pull side, but Youkilis did hit for some power to right field (.239 ISO) and that’s what you’re looking for in Yankee Stadium. His natural stroke isn’t to the opposite field like say, Martin’s and Derek Jeter‘s, but there’s enough opposite field ability to allow Youkilis to take advantage of the short porch on occasion. He’s a pull hitter, but not an Andruw Jones-esque dead pull hitter who couldn’t go the other way if his life depended on it.

As friend of RAB Patrick Sullivan pointed out yesterday, Youkilis hit just .158/.248/.237 (!) in his 242 plate appearances outside of hitter-friendly Fenway Park and U.S. Cellular Field last season. It’s not a huge sample but it is definitely a little worrisome to see a road performance that poor, especially when a guy is outside of two parks tailor-made for his swing and approach. There’s some evidence that Youkilis can take advantage of the short right field porch, but for the most part Yankee Stadium will not help his offense much this season. It’s not an ideal fit, but the options were limited.

Categories : Analysis, Offense
  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Is there any way to see that spray pattern overlaid on Yankee Stadium?

  • Havok9120

    Yikes. That’s….ugly.

    • jjyank

      Well, we are talking about Youkilis here.

      • Havok9120

        Yeah, but that spray chart (and that slash line) are even uglier than he is. Which takes some serious doing.

        • jjyank

          It certainly is an accomplishment.

  • voIII

    You know maybe at his age learning to go the other way may make him a better hitter. One can always hope…

    • Havok9120

      Yes, but this assumes that “learning to go the other way” is even doable at this point in his career at the MLB level.

      Its like all the people last season that enjoyed screaming “just hit it the other way to avoid the shift!!” as if it was a perfectly reasonable thing to expect players to be able to do on a whim.

      • Preston

        Maybe he can go the other way, his home park has never given him a reason to, and I doubt a player would want to tinker with his approach/swing for road games.

      • Ted Nelson

        I don’t have data on-hand to verify, but I believe that hitters in general tend to hit better at home. In fact, research suggests a home-team bias across sports as umpires are naturally inclined to make popular calls. (Especially important in baseball with balls and strikes.) A-Rod has pretty pronounces home-road splits the past three years, favoring home. In 2012 he was a little more awful at home, but Jones had a health split favoring home in 2011. Jeter’s had a strong home split 2 of the past 3 years. Martin’s home-road splits flip-flopped 2011 to 2012.

        Youkilis has struggled on the road the last two years. Perhaps that’s decline that won’t be reversed. On his career the difference isn’t as stark, though.

        • RetroRob

          Yes. Related to my note below, expanding beyond just 2012, in 2011 he hit .320 at home and .191 on the road. His BABIP on the road was a unsustainably bad .207. His road BABIP improved last year, but was still nearly thirty points below his career road average, setting up a two year run of bad road numbers. He’s just hit in some bad luck.I try never to overreact to home-road splits based on a single-season of data and, worse, even partial season data. On individual players, give me a minimum of three years, even four, before I start to take them seriously.

          As I said, I’m not expecting prime Youkilis to show up, but I can see improvements from last year. Even before the Yankees signed him, I had him on a list of players likely to outperform their 2011 numbers. Enough health to keep him on the field for 120+ games is the biggest key to his success.

          I don’t

          • RetroRob

            2012 numbers.

            Losing track of the years.

  • yazman

    Career .734 OPS at the new stadium (73 ABs), .905 OPS at the old stadium, most of the damage from 2007-08.

    http://www.baseball-reference......r&t=b

  • http://riveraveblues I remember the CBS years!

    I wonder if he’ll get Posada’s #20 and if so, how that will be taken? (As in LaTroy Hawkins and #21)

    • jjyank

      No way he takes #20. Posada is a borderline hall of famer, and I imagine his number will get retired after a while. Youk’s gonna have to figure out a new number.

      • MannyGeee

        My money is on 40

  • http://none Favrest

    What is his career Yankee Stadium batting average?

  • The Evil Umpire

    So 12/12/12 is officially “Youk” day at RAB?

    • Mystery Team

      Just as the Mayans predicted.

  • http://Tab Aly

    Wow. We may actually have no choice but to get a catcher who can provide some offense. That, and the righty fourth outfielder. Now, does anybody know where we could find an “offensive” catcher?

    • City Island

      A. J. Pierzynski is offensive.

      • Knoxvillain

        I still don’t know why everyone hates him. Can somebody provide a link showing that he’s a douchebag or anything?

        • Jacob

          a Men’s Journal survey of 100 Major League Baseball players, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski was voted “most hated player” with 34% of the votes. “He likes to talk a lot of sh**, and I’ve heard he’s a bad teammate,” one National League pitcher tells Men’s Journal. “He’s been a prick to guys on his own pitching staff. Basically, if you haven’t got five years in the big leagues, he treats you like you’re a peasant. He’s that kind of guy.”

          • Luisergi

            Indeed, i saw one of those where A.J. was the most hated, do you know the next two guys on the list were??

            2.-Nick Swisher
            3.-Alex Rodriguez

            I don’t know about you, but i didn’t have a problem with any of those guys.

            • jjyank

              I don’t either, but go back and check out some game threads from the playoffs. Plenty of fans have problems with both of those guys.

            • Betty Lizard

              Yes, but you’re not a player and it was the players who were surveyed, not the fans.
              And AJ’s 34% or whatever it was was vastly higher than Swisher’s and Rodriguez’ share.

            • Jacob

              I don’t either, I saw that list and thought it was complete shit but he wanted something saying AJ was hated

            • Ted Nelson

              It’s a bit more of a concern if your C doesn’t get along with the P staff than any other relationship on the field, I’d have to say.

    • Ted Nelson

      Cody Ross or Scott Hairston are candidates.

  • kenthadley

    Don’t worry about his declining performance. He fits right in. Anyone who thinks this team has any resemblance to a playoff contender either 1. believes past performance and reputation equals future performance after age 32 or, 2. is delusional. Unless there are significant additions coming, this is barely an 85 win team when you factor in the age-related performance declines that will necessarily occur in the post steroid era. Of course, Mo, Andy, Kuroda, Derek, Youk, Arod, Ichiro, and Tex might all just have career years…then I’m wrong. The 65 Yanks were MUCH younger than this team, and collapsed terribly. The 64 Yanks were in the World Series. When it goes, it goes quickly.

    • mr brightside

      i have heard this same thing every single year since 2001 and i have yet to see it happen on the field

      • kenthadley

        I hope you are right. But up to 2008 we don’t know how much of that performance over age was chemical induced. And the team is older now than at any point since 2008.

        • Steve (different one)

          It is your opinion that the Yankees are not playoff contenders. It is not a “fact”. Just as it is others’ opinion that they are contenders. Could this team finally fall off that age cliff? Sure. Is it a fact? Of course not.

          Seems wierd that this had to be explained.

        • Rick

          Your point that eventually this run of success with veteran players will come to an end is certainly possible. However, while young teams are fun and exciting with the enthusiasm they bring, I’ll roll the dice and ride with these veterans every day of the week. They have a career of work saying they can get the job done. Let’s see if they can get it done one more time. (not that there is another alternative anyway…) Welcome aboard, Youk.

    • Upstate Yanks

      95 wins last season.

      Playoffs are a crap shoot. Best teams make it, hottest team wins it.

      Enjoy us going every year while it lasts.

      • Jacob

        Well honestly the last 2 years we have not been the best team so it is fair, at one point in the year this team had me super excited for the WS but they could not keep it up so I was not as excited, they still had a good shot and I thought they were going to win it until Jete went down.

    • jjyank

      I really don’t think it’s so “delusional” to believe that the team is a contender ont he heels of winning the most games in the AL. In fact, I would say that positing that those who do view the Yankees as contenders are delusional, is himself delusional.

      • kenthadley

        Ok, JJ, thanks for bringing all those facts to the arguement.

        • Steve (different one)

          Which “facts” did you bring? That the players are one year than they were one year ago? I had no idea Stephen Hawking posted here.

          • kenthadley

            Age as it relates to performance; historical performance for old teams with little support from their high minor league affiliates; oh, and I’m not Stephen Hawking, but I can dance as well as he can.

            • Jacob

              It has been basically the same for 2-3 years now, but different guys step up and they always will

            • Ted Nelson

              So you have arbitrarily decided that next season is the year that they all fall off the cliff?

        • jjyank

          What? I brought the same amount of facts you did.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      Of course, Mo, Andy, Kuroda, Derek, Youk, Arod, Ichiro, and Tex might all just have career years

      Fortunately, the Yankees don’t need any of those players to have career years to be a playoff contender. They just need that group to collectively perform close to last year’s levels to be a contending team. There’s a decent chance of that happening. There’s also a chance some of the younger players rebound/improve to offset a potential bigger overall decline from that group (Cano can resume hitting w/RISP and resume hitting lefties, Nova can rebound, Gardner can stay healthy – or at least healthier, Hughes can take another step forward, Granderson can hit more like he did in the first half than he did in the second half). There’s definitely reasons for concern, but that’s true of most/all teams. The Yankees definitely have a realistic chance of being a playoff/division contender next year.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        I should add that as things stand, they will have a much smaller margin of error, imo.

      • RetroRob

        Correct. When people take an extreme position to either make or support their argument, they’ve already lost it. Not sure who made the initial statement you highlighted, and I won’t go back up the chain to find it out who did in fear it might be a regular!

  • chris

    I see a ton of red dots to 3rd and short. Is he a double play guy?

    • Gonzo

      Never been in the top 10, but I have no idea what his % is when in the situation.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        Career 8%.
        10-11% in each of the last 4 years.
        MLB average this year was 11%
        For comparison’s sake, Jeter set a career high of 24% this year (career 13%)

        • Gonzo

          Sweet. Was that on Fangraphs?

          • Need Pitching & Hitting

            B-Ref. In the situational hitting section.

            • Gonzo

              Nice. Thanks.

  • Upstate Yanks

    I’m not sure why I like this move as much as I do. I just see this working out great. Yankee Stadium has a way of rejuvenating players and I think Youk will be fine.

  • Gonzo

    I haven’t had the time to look at the past boards, but I can’t be the only one having a hard time with the thought of rooting for Youk?

    • JAG

      It’s going to be strange. How is Joba going to get away with throwing at his third baseman?

      • Yank the Frank

        A lot of errant pick off throws to third especially since the “Jeff Nelson” pick off move will be outlawed in 2013.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          Joba will catch Youk looking down and playing with the dirt with his feet and throw at his head. Even if there isn’t a runner on third. :-)

    • jjyank

      A lot of us are having a hard time rooting for him. I like the signing because I think he was the best option. But man, I spend so many years hating him and coming up with offensive puns with his name to my Red Sox fan friends.

      I think I’ll get over it the first time he jacks one out.

      • Gonzo

        I had a conversation with a friend of mine about what would it take for me to feel comfortable about it all.

        The range was from the signing to Aaron Boone HR. Obviously I’m somewhere in between, but I don’t know where yet.

      • Jacob

        First time he hits one will be a big homer, game winning/tying type of stuff I am calling it. This years True Yankee.

        • Klemy

          (TM)

    • Get Phelps Up

      All it’ll take is a homer against Lester on Opening Day.

  • Klemy

    By accepting last year as a down year, you have to expect a bounce back year. That makes looking at last year’s 242 ABs outside of the two parks a throw away in that case of an argument. If you don’t believe he will then you have nothing to look forward to and those 242 ABs will rule your expectations.

    We either believe he’ll be better this year or we don’t. everyone will have an opinion on it. I think he’s declined, but not as bad as last year played out, for whatever reason.

    Anyone who maintained for years that Swisher’s performance in the playoffs was a SSS that could turn around, can’t possibly argue that these 242 ABs prove he can’t bounce back this year, right?

    • Klemy

      “he” being Youk in that terribly written last sentence that I wish I could edit.

  • Alex

    Not excited about seeing that batting stance regularly…

    • Jacob

      Finally someone else feels the same, I despise that thing

  • pat

    Hopefully an off season to get healthy and a departure form the toxic Boston clubhouse will do him some wonders.

  • Mandy Stankiewicz

    With Gardner and Youk in, and Swisher and Arod out, what does this lineup look like?
    Without any imagination, based on last year:

    Jeter
    Ichiro
    Robbie
    Tex
    (DH)
    Granderson
    (Youk)
    (catcher)
    Gardner?

    • Jacob

      Youk after tex, definately before grandy

    • jjyank

      Hmmm. I might swap Tex and Robbie. As for DH, it depends on who it is, right? I’d bat Granderson above most of the likely DH options.

    • vin

      I prefer not to think about it.

  • Dave in VA

    On a totally different note, Eli Whiteside — remember him? wasn’t he with the Yankees last month? — has changed teams yet again. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweeted that the Blue Jays put him on waivers and the Rangers have claimed him.

    • RetroRob

      Good lord. He’s a man who just can’t quite make it through waivers. He’s loved, but not loved enough.

  • j

    I’d look into getting a righty DH capable of playing the OF. Could spell Ichiro against lefties, with Jeter moving to DH and Nunez/Nix playing short. Two names that come to mind – Willingham and Kubel. (With two rangy OF to his left and playing in the smaller RF his defense would be mitigated).

    • vin

      Kubel is a lefty.

    • Ted Nelson

      Ross and Hairston are FAs. Ross might get a chance to start full-time, but I doubt Hairston will. Kubel hits LH.

    • soxhata

      After watching Delmon Young kick our ass regularly and in the playoffs,I say go get him.Don’t care about personality.He hits when it counts.We need a see fastball hit fastball guy.Loved Swish but he would watch one or two pitches down the middle trying to get the count in his favor.We were EMBARRASSED by a 88 win team with a struggling closer,and a former yankee not so hot lefty closing out three games.We need some new blood.

  • RetroRob

    As a hitter, he was able to take advantage of his home park, which as Bill James has correctly pointed out is not a negative. He has a career 124 OPS+, which adjusts for park and probably undervalues slightly his OBP skills. His wRC+ is 128.

    He has a career BABIP of .322, which dropped to .268 last year. Way below his career average, and also below league average. He certainly took advantage of Fenway on balls in play, but he was nearly 30 points below his career road BABIP last year, too. His other peripherals have trended down, but remain solid, and remains in the top few in pitches seen.

    He’s the type of player who profiles for a bounce-back season. No, not a near six fWAR player, but a three WAR player is within reason, and that’s a $15M player.

    • Fin

      He would have to play virtually everyday I think to generate 3 WAR at the level of production that is reasonable to expect.

      • RetroRob

        Not at all. In 2011, a year in which he hit .258, he played in a 120 games and produced a 3.7 fWAR. The year prior he only appeared in 100 games and had a 4.1 WAR, although he was highly productive in those games. I am by no means expecting a return to that level of player when he could product 4.0+ WAR in 100 games, and basically 6.0 WAR in 135-145 games.

        A reduced Youkilis with an improvement in BABIP can certainly ourperform his 2012 WAR. 3.0 WAR is pushing the edges as he most likely won’t remain healthy enough, but it wouldn’t shock me at all if he approached it.

      • Ted Nelson

        What is reasonable to expect?

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    It certainly appears that Youks swing isn’t tailor made for YS3 but after Keppinger, Chavez and Reynolds were signed, there weren’t really any better options available.

    The fact that it’s only a 1 year deal is also important since they can maintain some payroll flexibility for 2014.

    • Ted Nelson

      “but after Keppinger, Chavez and Reynolds were signed, there weren’t really any better options available”

      It’s odd to assume that the Yankees re-actively signed Youkilis because the others were off the board when they could have made a strong run at any of those three. Especially Chavez and Reynolds, who signed one year deals for 1/4 and 1/2 the money respectively. If they thought Keppinger was a starting caliber player, $4 million isn’t exactly a lot against the $189, either.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

        There were conflicting reports about whether or not the Yankees made a 2/$10 million offer to Keppinger before they made their offer to Youkalis. 2 different beat writers had 2 different stories. Your guess is as good as mine as to which one was correct. Could have been they looked at Keppnger and Chavez as a 3B platoon vs. Youk who could man the position nearly full time. Reynolds in my opinion was never an option since his defense is so atrocious.

        Youk was really the last best man standing. It’s certainly reasonable to think he may have been Cashman”s first choice right from the start. Impossible to know unless you can read Cashman”s mind.

      • CS Yankee

        This, plus add that a trade was unlikely for anyone at the corner since its a half-season of needs….whereas RF & C are more of a concern (at least for me it is).

    • RetroRob

      I’m with Ted on this. Once the world knew about A-Rod’s surgery, the media focused on all the available options and assumed the Yankees were slowly losing out on players they were targeting as they signed with other teams.

      All indications, however, are that the Yankees targeted Youkilis from the start as their #1 replacement for A-Rod. He is the only free agent they made an offer to at the Winter Meetings, and it makes sense because of issues the others presented making them less-than-ideal candidates.

      First, Reynolds. I would have been okay if he was the DH and emergency 3B’man, serving as backup to the backup third baseman. He is as bad a defender as can be. Reynolds rated out as a -0.1 rWAR in 2012 because of his defense. Whatever he did with the bat was neutralized and then some with his glove. The year prior, when he hit 37 HRs, and nearly 80 BBs he was only a half-a-win player for the entire year. The Orioles could try and keep him on the field when it appeared they were a bad team, but even they eventually moved him off third and put an untested teenaged rookie there once they were competing. They didn’t pick up his option and never made him offer. So basically in two years he’s a 0.4 WAR player, and it’s all driven by his horrific defense. Eduardo Nunez is scared of Mark Reynolds in the field. In one year, the worst of his career, Youkilis produced 300% more WAR than Reynolds did the prior two years combined.

      Next, the other option was the two-headed Keppinger/Chavez platoon, which immediately presents a problem. Two players filling one roster spot. Not ideal. That will become even more of an issue when A-Rod returns when three players are now surrounding 3B. Worse, the heavy lifting on that platoon would be handled by Eric Chavez, who makes Youkilis look quite durable. If there’s ever an Unbreakable II, Eric Chavez might just want to audition for the role of Mr. Glass. It’s okay if the team plans for Chavez as a backup. Not so for him to be the player they need to get 2/3rds of the playing time while A-Rod is recovering, knowing that he could even be out for the entire year. Finally in the case of Chavez, that was his most productive year in anywhere form five to eight seasons. He hadn’t produced a 100 OPS+ season since 2007, let alone a 125 OPS+ year since, I think, 2004. You don’t plan on that. You welcome it when it happens, and you let him move on. In the case of Keppinger, he’s coming off a career year, is only one year younger than Youkilis, and he required a three-year contract. For his career, he’s a 97 OPS+.

      Add it all up, as the Yankees did, and there was only one choice. They went and got him.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

        I agree Youk was the best of the available choices for the reasons you outlined above.

        It all depends on whether you believe Jon Heyman or Buster Olney as to whether or not the Yankees made that initial offer to Keppinger which was reported a few days before the Youk offer was reported.

        Keppinger/Chavez vs. Youkalis. You could make a case for either option. I’m not gonna pretend to know which Cashman preferred and all anyone else could do is give their best educated guess.

        • RetroRob

          Totally. I’m just giving my idea on why I think Youkilis was the first choice. Yet it’s likely the Yankees, meaning Cashman, was kicking the tires on a variety of fronts. It seems Youkilis was the one they pushed on the hardest.

  • You should have shot Arod

    Sign AJ and have set of matching Assholes for other teams to hate.