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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Stats you need to know: Kevin Youkilis

By Mark Simon

Five stats to know on the newest Yankees infielder Kevin Youkilis:

1. He was a little better with a change of Sox, but maybe not as much as you think
Youkilis had a .233/.315/.377 slashline (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage) in 42 games with the Red Sox, .236/.346/.425 in 80 games with the White Sox.

The change of teams resulted in an immediate jolt for Youkilis.

He hit. 340 with three homers and 15 RBI, with a bunch of big hits in his first 14 games with Chicago. He was 7-for-his-first-11 with the White Sox with runners in scoring position.

But you didn't see him much in highlights after that.

He hit .213 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI with 61 strikeouts in his last 66 games, and was 8-for-his-last-55 with runners in scoring position.

He had one RBI in his last 59 at-bats.

2. He is trending downwards as a hitter
Youkilis’ numbers have taken a significant plunge the last two seasons. His power numbers have dipped, with his .409 slugging percentage last season being the worst in any full season he’s played.

To watch this version of Youkilis means you have to brace yourself for a lot of 5-3 and 6-3 ground outs.

His ground ball rates have gone from 35 percent in 2009 to 41 and 43 percent the last two seasons.

Youkilis hit .192 (23-for-120) when hitting a ground ball to the left of the second base bag in 2012. That’s about 50 points (or in this case about six hits) below what an average right-handed hitter did last season.

3. But he is the Greek God of Walks, Long At-Bats, and Hit by Pitches
Youkilis earned the nickname “Greek God of Walks” through a reference in the book Moneyball for his penchant for drawing them.

In the majors he has been a very good walker, though he has only ranked in the top 10 in walks once in his career (seventh in the AL in 2006).

More notably, he’s an at-bat battler. He finished third in the majors in pitches-per-plate appearance last season and ranks tied for seventh in that stat over the last five seasons.

He’s also frequently plunked. He led the AL last season with 17 hit by pitches. His 84 over the last three seasons, third in the majors behind Chase Utley (120) and Carlos Quentin (106).

4. He won’t hurt you at third, and he could be help at first
Youkilis has played a little more than 1,800 innings at third base over the last two seasons and has rated as an average defender.

Youkilis’ strength, stat-wise, is at turning the ball hit down the third base line into an out. That may be a positioning thing, because his numbers on other ground balls aren’t as good, particularly those hit into the areas where third basemen most commonly field grounders.

Over the last two seasons, Youkilis ranks 22nd among the 29 third basemen who have played at least 1,000 innings in Revised Zone Rating (the ability to field balls hit into that “frequently-fielded” area). His out-conversion rate on those balls was 70 percent. By comparison, A-Rod ranks eighth-best with a 74 percent rate.

The difference probably figures to 10 to 12 balls over the course of a season.

Youkilis does have a very stellar history at first base and would be a credible fill-in as needed for Mark Teixeira. He ranked third at the position in Defensive Runs Saved in 2009, fifth in 2010.

5. He is going to become a part of some noteworthy trivia questions
By now you’ve probably seen the list of players who were members of the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox that went on to play with the Yankees after that.

If you hadn’t, they are: Mark Bellhorn, Kevin Cash, Johnny Damon, Alan Embree, Derek Lowe, Ramiro Mendoza, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Mike Myers.

Youkilis will join this list when he plays his first game. If he has a good season and hits 20 home runs, he would join a five-man group of players to hit 20 home runs in a season for both the Yankees and Red Sox, as noted in the chart on the right.

If Youkilis ends up playing for a Yankees team that wins the World Series, he’ll join seven others who have been in the World Series for winning Yankees and Red Sox teams. That group is Babe Ruth, long-ago notables Everett Scott, Wally Schang, Joe Bush, and Sam Jones, and more recently Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske.