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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WEEI: Speier: Love Him Or Hate Him, Youkilis Belongs In A.L. Elite

Here comes sickness
Moving up in the box

For the second straight season, Kevin Youkilis has performed at a level that should place him in conversations about the top players in the American League. And yet somehow his name rarely gets recognized among baseball’s elite.

The subject of American League Most Valuable Player typically revolves around Twins catcher Joe Mauer, Yankees Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter and perhaps Angels first baseman Kendry Morales (all, to be sure, deserving candidates). Youkilis is no more than a second-tier consideration.

...Youkilis is a frequent target of the ire of opponents. Much like fellow Cincinnati native Paul O’Neill, whose intensity irked other teams and their fans, Youkilis simply manages to get under the skin of teams and cities that actively root against him.

He hears a steady shower of verbal barrages when going into a ballpark as a visitor. Though he is uncomfortable with the absence of civility, he has come to accept that the hostility he encounters is a sort of backhanded compliment.

“The more ‘Youkilis, you suck’ I get — you keep hearing it and you just want to tell the fan off — but the more you hear that, it is a positive thing,” said Youkilis. “It’s not a natural thing in life, but as athletes it is the biggest complIment that you can get, which is sick.”

Repoz Posted: September 16, 2009 at 12:09 PM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, red sox

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Mister High Standards Posted: September 16, 2009 at 12:28 PM (#3323270)
Well, I hate Youkilis... more importantly, with Oakland puttin the thump on Texas and the Sox taking one from LA that might lock up the wild card for the good guys.
   2. Rally Posted: September 16, 2009 at 01:09 PM (#3323285)
I don't think Ken Harrelson's good guys are anywhere close to having things locked up.

Greek god of walks is kind of outdated, given that his walk total is good but not league leading, and a lot of his game is power. Considering Tarentino's recent film, does anyone else think Youkilis could be "The Bear Jew"? I can't think of any other MLB player who'd be better for that nickname.
   3. sunnyday2 Posted: September 16, 2009 at 01:17 PM (#3323287)
I dunno. I've seen Youk mentioned as an MVP candidate about as much as anybody other than the big 3 mentioned here. More than Morales. As much as he should or more as a matter of fact. I don't think he is a first team all-star even.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 16, 2009 at 01:33 PM (#3323299)
Youkilis will almost certainly be named on most MVP ballots and finish in the top 10, which should meet most definitions of "elite". The "love" or "hate" vote doesn't seem all that close, either.
   5. Rally Posted: September 16, 2009 at 01:48 PM (#3323317)
Does anyone really care who gets 2nd place after Joe Mauer? Sure you can look it up on B-Ref, but I never remember the 2nd place finisher for any award, just who won it.
   6. 185/456(GGC) Posted: September 16, 2009 at 01:56 PM (#3323322)
Does anyone really care who gets 2nd place after Joe Mauer? Sure you can look it up on B-Ref, but I never remember the 2nd place finisher for any award, just who won it.


Eric Seidman flipped out last year when someone didn't put Halliday on his Cy Young ballot. I like Bear Jew.
   7. The Piehole of David Wells Posted: September 16, 2009 at 02:32 PM (#3323363)
might lock up the wild card for the good guy


where have all the pants-pissers gone? not that you were one of them. they all seem to have disappeared.
   8. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 16, 2009 at 02:44 PM (#3323383)
The Bear Jew is a really good one for Youk. Well played AROM
   9. villageidiom Posted: September 16, 2009 at 02:48 PM (#3323388)
Youkilis is no more than a second-tier consideration.
Nor should he be more than a second-tier consideration.
   10. RJ in TO Posted: September 16, 2009 at 02:49 PM (#3323390)
I still prefer the proposed-by-someone-other-than-me nickname of Hobobeard McCranium.
   11. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: September 16, 2009 at 02:50 PM (#3323391)
I think the coolest thing with Youkilis' season is that he's hit this well while shuttling between 1B and 3B based on the team's needs.

He's now effectively part of a four-man C-1B-3B platoon, where Lowell and Varitek share one lineup spot, and Youkilis plays every day at either first or third, while Victor Martinez either catches of covers first. While it's certainly possible that a lot of other top-ten players are the kind of team guys who would gladly take on such a job-sharing arrangement to help the club, it's a credit to Youkilis and Martinez that they've both actually done it.

It's also a credit to Francona for making it work. It certainly helps that Youkilis has a desire to win that verges on personality disorder, and Martinez is the new guy in the clubhouse, but nonetheless, these sorts of job-sharing arrangements happen less than we'd like them to, because it's tough to manage the personalities and it's tough for good players to accept less-than-fixed roles on the club.
   12. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:10 PM (#3323414)
TFA is actually pretty good I thought. Speier doesn't really advocate Youkilis for MVP so much as just look to interject him in the non-Mauer group which I don't think is unreasonable.

Does anyone really care who gets 2nd place after Joe Mauer? Sure you can look it up on B-Ref, but I never remember the 2nd place finisher for any award, just who won it.


A lot of people around Boston absolutely went bonkers last year because some guy from Texas did not list Pedroia on his MVP ballot. I swear more people were talking about this writer not listing Pedroia than were talking about Pedroia actually winning the thing. It was stupid upon stupid.
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:21 PM (#3323421)
Youkilis is no more than a second-tier consideration.


As long as the top tier is one-guy deep, I'm fine with Youkilis being in the second.
   14. 1k5v3L Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:25 PM (#3323425)
The Bear Jew is a really good one for Youk.
And much easier on the eyes than Youkilis, The Bare Jew.
   15. Joel W Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:29 PM (#3323433)
Is there a good way to quantify the value that Youkilis adds by shuttling between 1st and 3rd, and moreover just by being able to play 3rd. Would it be the difference between a replacement 3rd baseman and a replacement 1st baseman?
   16. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:40 PM (#3323448)
I would think you can be more precise than that by incorporating the actual players being replaced (Varitek and Lowell) in the current system. Of course there is a case to be made that at least Lowell is also performing better by getting days off he might otherwise not get (he has been much better in the 2nd half) but that's assigning value that's virtually impossible to quantify.
   17. Swoboda is freedom Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:41 PM (#3323449)
For the second straight season, Kevin Youkilis has performed at a level that should place him in conversations about the top players in the American League. And yet somehow his name rarely gets recognized among baseball’s elite.

Gee, and I thought he finished 3rd in the MVP ballot last year, which would have been a recognition of being among the elite. Must have been a different guy.
   18. Rally Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:41 PM (#3323450)
Fangraphs WAR has Youkilis 6th in the AL. After Mauer it's Zobrist, Jeter, Longoria, Figgins, and Youkilis. Tex is 14th but the differences are small, he's only a half win back of Youkilis.

Some will say that WAR should not be used for MVP awards (MGL has made this claim on his blog) but my opinion is that while it is not the final word, it's a good place to start. If I could design the ballot as I please I'd vote:

1. Mauer
2. Jeter/Figgins/Youkilis the Bear Jew

Giving some consideration to contributions on winning teams here.

3. Zobrist/Longoria/Tex/M Cabrera/Ichiro

Zobrist drops a bit for his team's recent dive, and also because he's got what I consider the flukiest defensive number - +23. I think most of the other UZRs are accurately reflecting great fielding but I think Zobrist is a fluke.
   19. villageidiom Posted: September 16, 2009 at 03:59 PM (#3323471)
Is there a good way to quantify the value that Youkilis adds by shuttling between 1st and 3rd, and moreover just by being able to play 3rd. Would it be the difference between a replacement 3rd baseman and a replacement 1st baseman?
Is there a good way? No. Is the method you propose good enough? Probably.

Youkilis provides the team with options. They need not take up a roster spot with a replacement 3B, a roster spot they appear to devote to the bullpen. There's less downside to taking on greater health risks at 3B. In terms of offense, he raises the team's replacement level; a replacement level 1B hits better than a replacement level 3B, and they can call up the former even when something happens at 3B.

Each of these options has some inherent value, but part of the realized value is whatever the front office does with the option. If you cite Daniel Bard as the one taking the additional roster spot, you can't give credit to Youkilis for Bard being so good, nor for the bullpen being so rested for having an extra man all year. If they go out and get a replacement 3B anyway instead of promoting Bard, there's not nearly as much value gained. It's difficult to assess the option's inherent value without going down the path of some those-people-on-the-transport-died-because-Harry-Bailey-wasn't-there-to-save-them-because-you-weren't-there-to-save-Harry logic that I'm not comfortable* performing.

The most obvious assessment you can make is probably the value difference on replacement level 1B vs. 3B.

* Mostly because it would take too much time and effort to do, and would make me miserable. And I already have a Wonderful Life.
   20. 185/456(GGC) Posted: September 16, 2009 at 04:00 PM (#3323474)
Like Mauer, Youk missed some time. I'd take that into consideration were I voting, but am not really sure how to quantify it.
   21. villageidiom Posted: September 16, 2009 at 04:06 PM (#3323482)
Gee, and I thought he finished 3rd in the MVP ballot last year, which would have been a recognition of being among the elite. Must have been a different guy.
I think it's recognition that he had a really good season last year. Were he among the elite, just the fact that he's having a good season again this year would be enough for people to try to manufacture a case for him ahead of Mauer.

(Whatever case they build would still be crap.)
   22. puck Posted: September 16, 2009 at 04:07 PM (#3323484)

Some will say that WAR should not be used for MVP awards (MGL has made this claim on his blog)


Was he talking about WAR specifically, or do you mean the thread about using a year's UZR total in an MVP discussion? If it was the former, I missed the thread.
   23. sunnyday2 Posted: September 16, 2009 at 04:40 PM (#3323529)
he's hit this well while shuttling between 1B and 3B based on the team's needs.


Ho hum.

Do MLB players really tank when they're asked to move between positions or to a new one? If not, then this is like saying, "He's so clutch."
   24. tjm1 Posted: September 16, 2009 at 04:43 PM (#3323533)
I think a lot of teams have stopped using a roster spot for a backup third baseman, and just have a backup for 2B/SS/3B.

It's interesting that there are several multi-position guys towards the top of the MVP list this year. Youkilis, Zobrist, Mauer (he DH'es a lot), plus there's Figgins who has played almost exclusively at third this year, but has played a lot at second and the outfield in the past.

By the way, if someone had told you before this season that Ben Zobrist would put up a 136 OPS+_ and Jason Bartlett would put up a 131 OPS+, both playing full-time with no major injuries, how many wins would you have pegged the Rays for?
   25. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: September 16, 2009 at 04:48 PM (#3323540)
Ho hum.

Do MLB players really tank when they're asked to move between positions or to a new one? If not, then this is like saying, "He's so clutch."
Very few top-ten players ever do it. At the least, it's rare. My guess is that there are a good number of players who could help their teams if they allowed themselves to be moved around the field, but they don't do it, either because they don't want to or because they don't get asked. Having a player obviously and readily willing to move around the field is useful over and above the comparative replacement levels at the two positions.
   26. Obama Bomaye Posted: September 16, 2009 at 04:58 PM (#3323555)
I hate him.
   27. DCW3 Posted: September 16, 2009 at 05:03 PM (#3323568)
By the way, if someone had told you before this season that Ben Zobrist would put up a 136 OPS+_ and Jason Bartlett would put up a 131 OPS+, both playing full-time with no major injuries, how many wins would you have pegged the Rays for?

On the other hand, if somebody had told you that B.J. Upton would put up a 74 OPS+, Dioner Navarro a 54 OPS+, Pat Burrell an 86 OPS+, Carlos Pena would hit .227, and Scott Kazmir would have an ERA just under 6, how many wins would you have pegged the Rays for?
   28. Rally Posted: September 16, 2009 at 05:23 PM (#3323598)
Was he talking about WAR specifically, or do you mean the thread about using a year's UZR total in an MVP discussion? If it was the former, I missed the thread.


There's two issues. One is that UZRs for single season should be considered suspect, there is enough noise in the data that you can't be that sure that some guy with a +20 UZR actually saved 20 runs more than an average fielder.

Another issue is that MGL, and many others, believe that an MVP award should not look at a context neutral stat like WAR. My opinion is that WAR is the best starting point I can find, and from there consider the unique arguments for all players that play at a certain level (use WAR to find a cutoff point because nobody has the time to argue and refute the merits of Adam Jones or Paul Konerko for MVP).
   29. Rally Posted: September 16, 2009 at 05:28 PM (#3323604)
I think a lot of teams have stopped using a roster spot for a backup third baseman, and just have a backup for 2B/SS/3B.


With a 4 man bench that many teams use, you pretty much have to do it that way. I doubt a strict 3B backup was ever used all that much, except for teams that used a platoon at the spot like Mulliniorg from the 1980's Blue Jays.

When the Yankees had to play without A-Rod it would have helped quite a bit if they could have played Tex there, gotten a 1B replacement level bat like Shelley Duncan in the lineup, instead of dealing with Ransom and Pena.
   30. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 16, 2009 at 05:30 PM (#3323611)
You can play that game with almost every team, can't you? How many wins would you give the Yankees if you knew Wang would win one game all year, Sergio Mitre would make more starts than Phil Hughes, etc.
   31. 185/456(GGC) Posted: September 16, 2009 at 05:37 PM (#3323626)
With a 4 man bench that many teams use, you pretty much have to do it that way.
The Red Sox have already used two position players to mop up games this year. I think the org values versatility.
   32. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: September 16, 2009 at 06:16 PM (#3323671)
Re #10 - thanks Ryan! Don't forget his sworn foe and vanquisher, Ricky "The Dragon" Porcello.
   33. Kurt Posted: September 16, 2009 at 06:50 PM (#3323706)
With a 4 man bench that many teams use, you pretty much have to do it that way.

Or you can have a backup 3B/OF, e.g. Bautista for Toronto.
   34. villageidiom Posted: September 16, 2009 at 07:19 PM (#3323747)
One is that UZRs for single season should be considered suspect, there is enough noise in the data that you can't be that sure that some guy with a +20 UZR actually saved 20 runs more than an average fielder.
That depends, too. Is the noise in the data due to wide fluctuations in transcription (in terms of whether the ball is in-zone vs. out-of-zone, etc.), or due to wide fluctuations in performance? If the former, you can't count on UZR in a single season for anything. If the latter, you can use single-season UZR to compare performance levels and quantify impacts, but you can't use it for projection to future years.

The impression I had was that much of the noise was due to performance fluctuations, in which case it still plays a part. Am I wrong?
   35. Rally Posted: September 16, 2009 at 07:26 PM (#3323753)
That depends, too. Is the noise in the data due to wide fluctuations in transcription (in terms of whether the ball is in-zone vs. out-of-zone, etc.), or due to wide fluctuations in performance?


It's both. For transcription issues, just search around for studies people have done comparing the different datasets.

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