2011 Player Review: Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis in the fieldToday starts a series in which we look back on the individual performances put forth by each major Red Sox contributor during the 2011 season. Since the outspoken Kevin Youkilis seems to be in the limelight a lot these days, we’ll start with his 2011 season in review.

This was not the season we were expecting from Youk. The ending line was .258/.373/.459 with a .366 wOBA, 17 home runs, 68 runs scored and 80 RBI, a sharp decline from the .300+/.400+/.540+ rates of the two seasons prior. Last season, Youkilis only played in 102 games, having suffered a torn tendon in his right thumb. This season, the thumb didn’t seem to be an issue, but rather a series of nagging injuries. Youk battled through most of them, but could not battle past hip and sports hernia injuries that clearly affected him in the season’s second half.

Through the first 83 games of his season, Youk hit .285/.399/.512 (.911 OPS) with 13 home runs. He’d play only 37 games after the all-star break in which he was actually a detriment at the plate hitting .191/.317/.349 with only four home runs and 17 RBI.

The good news is that, from a general batter profile standpoint, not much changed in Youk’s game. Both his walk rate (13.2 percent) and strikeout rate (19.3 percent) were in line with what he had done over the past few years. His walk rate actually tied him for the tenth best walk rate in baseball this season. Youk continued to make contact at an above league average rate (81.5 percent) and held a chase rate (23.6 percent) that was well below the league average.

In other words, when Youk stepped into the batter’s box, he was the same hitter he ever was. The one big difference, however, was his inability to generate enough power as he battled through second half injuries. You can see evidence of this from the change in Youk’s ground-ball to fly-ball rate. Youk hadn’t held a fly-ball rate under 44 percent since becoming a regular in 2006. That rate fell to about 38 percent this season.

Another area of struggle this season came against right-handed pitching, against whom Youk hit only .234/.349/.415. Much of those struggles, however, might be explained by an unusually low .260 BABIP against righties this season despite a line-drive rate of 19.3 percent against them, according to FanGraphs. Youk’s career line against right-handed pitching is .285/.379/.484 with a .320 BABIP.

The question now turns to his defense. According to ultimate zone rating (UZR), Youk rated below average at the hot corner, posting a -3.7 UZR in 948.2 innings. This lack of ability at the hot corner is echoed by the -4.9 UZR he posted while playing 494.1 innings there in 2009. Clearly, based on the numbers — and, as I think you would agree, the eye test — Youk is not an asset defensively at third.

Defensive abilities aside, one has to wonder whether playing almost daily at the hot corner led to some of Youk’s injury issues this season. While he’s clearly an athlete, he’s not exactly the most agile or fluid player you’ve ever seen.

Looking toward 2012, Youk’s injury issues have to be a concern, as he turns 33 years old before opening day and is in the last year of his contract ($13M club option for 2013). Is he more of a DH at this point? If so, how do the Sox approach David Ortiz? We’ll have plenty of time to examine those questions and more, but for now we can at least take solace in the fact that a healthy Youkilis should rebound at the plate in 2012.

Categories: Boston Red Sox David Ortiz Kevin Youkilis

Charlie first started writing about baseball back in 2008 when he opened Fantasy Baseball 365. Since graduating college with a degree in English, he has spent time coaching baseball as well as working in several minor league front offices. He also writes for The Outside Corner and contributes to Project Prospect and ESPN's Sweet Spot. Writer from August 3, 2010 - May 6, 2012

11 Responses to “2011 Player Review: Kevin Youkilis” Subscribe

  1. Bruce October 4, 2011 at 10:03 AM #

    It seems to me that it is coming out that Youk was unhappy being moved back to 3rd base and that combined with his injuries made for a tough season for him. You have to wonder if the Gonzales trade frustrated him. Here we have a gold glove 1st baseman with one of the top OPS's in baseball and we trade for Gonzalesfor $150 million, give up 3 top minor leaguers and have to move Youk to 3rd where he is a liability. That trade just never made sense to me. We could of had Beltre for $50 million and lost no minor leaguers and had a helathy Youk. Wouldn't that combo have been better than Gonzales with a struggling Youk?

    • Nick October 4, 2011 at 10:13 AM #

      To me, this means they don't intend to bring Youk back after this contract ends. Or, they want him as DH and backup-1B post-Ortiz.

    • LarryAtIIATMS October 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM #

      Quite right. 2010 Youk + Beltre = 2011 A-Gon + Youk. But there's no way to know whether Youk would have been healthier if he'd remained at first base.

      By the way, this is not so much a knock of Youk and A-Gon as it is appreciation of Beltre's 2010 (and for that matter, his 2011).

      • ChipBuck October 4, 2011 at 2:24 PM #

        Beltre has been pretty brilliant the last two years. It's pretty clear that Safeco (which is killer on right handed power hitters) was partially to blame for his down stretch.

  2. Tim Daloisio October 4, 2011 at 1:09 PM #

    It's really hard to give Youk a grade this year as injuries so depleted his ability. That said, injuries are a part of overall performance and vs. what we all expected out of Youk this was a disappointment that, luckily, the offense was able to overcome. I'll weight my grade more heavily to his healthy start and give him a C+ for the season.

    • ChipBuck October 4, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

      I understand the sentimental idea of keeping Ortiz in the fold, but I kinda felt like we're playing with house money all season. Initially, I thought letting Papi go, and moving Youk to DH was the prudent move. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm not comfortable with a Lowrie/Aviles platoon, and the 3B market will be incredibly weak this winter; especially now that Omar Infante has been locked up to a two year extension. That leaves Aramis Ramirez and maybe Wilson Betimet as the only starting quality options. It's not pretty. I suppose a trade could be an option, but I don't know of many teams interested in trading away a 3B at the moment.

      (continued)

    • ChipBuck October 4, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

      Part 2 (continued)

      I can't remember who (Evan or Brendan, I think) mentioned a Youk to Colorado for Ian Stewart and other parts. That might work, but a lot of that depends on whether or not you think he can complete his development. After playing in a park that heavily favors hitters (even more so than Fenway) for the past few years, he's yet to put up consistently great numbers. Going into his age-27 season, it seems even less likely. Unless a dark horse emerges, the best option appears to be Youk at 3B and Ortiz at DH.

  3. Mr Punch October 4, 2011 at 2:46 PM #

    I'm guessing Ortiz could go. The '11 lineup was clearly too shallow and too lefthanded, which showed up in inability to score runs when needed despite leading the majors. LF would be the easy fix, but …. So the Sox may decide to put Youk at DH with the hope that the move will keep him in the lineup, and bring in a RHH for 3B.

    A trade seems less likely as it'd be tough to get value for a 33-year-old who's been injured two (three?) years in a row.

  4. Bruce October 4, 2011 at 4:45 PM #

    So for a slight upgrade at first with Gonzales we have caused Youk, one of our top players, to be frustrated and injured trying to play third plus we lost 3 quality minor leaguers and $150 million. Now we have no one to play 3rd, Youk probably doesn't want to DH this early in his career so what do we do with 3rd and DH? Or Youk for that matter? I just can't see how that trade for Gonzales helped the club. It is going to hurt us for yrs to come.

  5. Drewski October 4, 2011 at 5:23 PM #

    Maybe Youk should try eating a salad from time to time so he doesn't look like a 3rd baseman on a slow pitch beer league softball team. His lack of conditioning, esepcially this season cannot be ignored. He was very heavy coming into spring training and didn't really lose the weight during the regular season.

    Not sure how you guys think Gonz is hurting the club. Youk won't be back after 2012 and they can work on finding a better replacement at 3rd.

  6. Brian October 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM #

    How are people upset about the Gonzo Trade? Youk is 33 Gonzo is 28. Beltre is 32. If you were building a team for the next 5 years to go along with Peddy, ellsbury, lester and Buck all in thier primes who would you want? I agree This year it seems like a push in terms of value but Gonzo is going to be a great hitter in Fenway for a long time. And while we have up 3 of our better prospects how many wins has that helped the padres win? Right now, the trade looks like a steal. In our farm, we have Will Middlebrooks who had an amazing year as a power Right Handed 3rd baseman. He is projected to be ready by 2013. So you give Youk one last run at 3rd base. Keep Aviles as a back up. Let Papi go (sadly)… and if you need to give Youk a day or 2 a week at DH to keep him healthy do it. Keep Lavernway in boston and let the 2 of them play DH and provide some off days for other starters.