What Is Kevin Youkilis Worth?

The trade market for Kevin Youkilis is heating up. With Will Middlebrooks playing well — and both first base and designated hitter occupied — it looks like Youkilis will be the odd man out in Boston.

But while the 33-year-old has been a strong offensive performer in the past, this year he’s been awful. Youkilis has hit just .215/.301/.341 this season, and that’s going to make it difficult for the Red Sox to get anything useful in return for him. The Sox realize this, and are reportedly willing to pay some of Youkilis’ remaining contract as an enticement to get a better package for him. But with Youkilis slipping offensively, teams will be hesitant to offer anything of value for the third baseman.

Ironically, the player known as the “Greek God of Walks” has a walk rate of just 8.5% — easily his worst of his career. Equally troubling is the fact that his strikeout rate has jumped to 25.5%, another career-worst. Youkilis has been so bad offensively, that his wRC+ is just 74. In other words, he’s been 26% worse than the average hitter this season. For comparison, that puts him in the same company as Alberto Callaspo and Sean Rodriguez.

Those numbers are far more concerning now that Youkilis has entered his decline phase. One of the biggest indicators that a player is declining is bat speed. Unfortunately for Youkilis, he hasn’t been able to get around on fastballs as often this year. Youkilis has always hit the pitch well during his career — compiling a 148.7 pitch value against fastballs. But this season, he’s been below average (-1.0) for the first time in his career.

Youkilis is also making less contact this season. Each one of his contact rates — O-Contact%, Z-Contact% and Contact% — have fallen this year. When he has made contact, Youkilis hasn’t been able to put the ball in the air. Only 26.8% of his batted balls are categorized as fly balls. That’s a steep decline from his 43.1% career rate. It’ll be tough for Youkilis to hit for much power if he continues to be a ground-ball machine.

While some of Youkilis’ struggles can be attributed to a back injury, that’s also a reason for concern. Youkilis has never been known as a durable player. The last time he had 600 plate appearances was 2008. And now that Youkilis has gotten older, his injuries have become more frequent. If a team acquired him, they’d be taking a huge risk.

Youkilis will be owed roughly $6 million the rest of the season. For the Red Sox to get something significant in return, they’d have to eat a large chunk of that salary. There are certainly teams in the race that could use help at third — namely the Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians — and Youkilis would represent an upgrade over their current options. There’s also the Los Angeles Dodgers, which could finally rid themselves of James Loney and put Youkilis back at first base.

Even if those teams are desperate for help at their corner infield slots, they shouldn’t have to give up any significant prospects for Youkilis. Middlebrooks’ play has made Youkilis redundant. If the Red Sox continue to play Youkilis at third, they’ll do so at the expense of Middlebrooks. And since the Red Sox already have better players at first and DH, the Red Sox don’t have a lot of leverage. If the Red Sox were to cover most — or all — of Youkilis’ remaining salary, it’s possible they could receive a low-level impact player. Maybe a reliever or a good bat off the bench. But right now, there’s no reason for a team to break the bank on Youkilis.

Even with his struggles, there is going to be a market for Kevin Youkilis. And while he would represent upgrades at third for some contending teams, he would be even more valuable moving back to first base. That makes the Dodgers and the Indians two of the teams that should be inquiring about Youkilis. And considering Kenny Williams is no stranger to taking risks, the White Sox will likely be involved as well. He’s had a history of success, and there will probably be a team willing to take a risk on him turning things around. But unless he starts producing soon, the Red Sox are going to receive pennies on the dollar for him.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

64 Responses to “What Is Kevin Youkilis Worth?”

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  1. GP says:

    “Youkilis has been so bad offensively, that his wRC+ is just 74. In other words, he’s been 26% worse than the average third baseman this season.”

    Wait, is wRC+ position-adjusted? I thought a 74 wRC+ meant he’s 26% worse than the average hitter period.

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    • Person says:

      Yeah, I think that was a mistake. 26% worse than the average (non-pitcher) hitter is correct. Then again, I’m not the Fangraphs writer.

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    • whatever says:

      As far as I know wRC+ is not adjusted for position and I thought I knew these things. I’m wondering that since 3b is toward the middle of the defensive spectrum if 100 is about the average production you can expect from a third baseman.

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  2. Kevin S. says:

    Youkilis just isn’t an option for teams looking for hot corner help anymore. I’d definitely kick the tires on him if I was the Dodgers, though. We’ll have to see if Ned Colletti’s irrational love with older veterans outweighs his irrational love for James Loney, but I’d bet on Youk bouncing back somewhat over the next year and a half before I bet on Loney being an average offensive first baseman for a full season for the first time in his career.

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    • Cidron says:

      even if the Dodgers did sign Youk, they couldnt shed Loney. Not “IF”, but “WHEN” Youk gets injured again, they would need Loney to step in. So, they would have to shed someone else.

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  3. PiratesHurdles says:

    He’d by a nice veteran fit for the Buccos too at 1B, kinda like D. Lee last year. Unless he really start hitting, he’ll cost very little. The Bucs got Lee for an A+ level 1B prospect that wasn’t near their top 30 and Lee was owed much less.

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  4. everdiso says:

    Just a friendly reminder:

    Will Middlebrooks

    First 5gms: 22ab, .409avg, .435obp, 1.000slg, 1.435ops
    Last 30gms: 106ab, .264avg, .307obp, .377slg, .681ops

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    • Steve says:

      Sure, but the Sox aren’t going anywhere this year anyway and Youkilis has a giant fork sticking out of his back. Might as well play the kid and see what you have.

      You know who would look good at 3B? Jed Lowrie.

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      • Spike says:

        Yeah, Ben Cherington did his best to torpedo the Sawx’s future in just 2 trades. How would Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie look on the Sox’s roster for the next five years?

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      • Spike says:

        oh and how are Mark Melanson and Andrew Bailey working out??

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      • Jonathan says:

        “How would Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie look on the Sox’s roster for the next five years?”

        About the same as they look right about now: not playing. Sure, Reddick and Lowrie would’ve probably played this year because of the massive amount of injuries, but both were pretty far back on the depth chart when their respective trades were made. Reddick might have made the starting lineup opening day due to Crawford’s injury, but Lowrie was pegged behind Aviles and possibly Iglesias at SS.

        While peak value wasn’t gotten for either, neither one of them had anything resembling a future in Boston. Reddick falls behind Kalish in terms of established upside (And mind you, he has yet to correct his biggest issue: he’s still striking out way too much and if he doesn’t bring that down, he’s in for a regression, Kalish is considered a better defender and has better plate discipline) and Jackie Bradley Jr. is a high probability to step in to a starting role by 2014, meaning we couldn’t keep both even if Ellsbury walks.

        Hell, getting to the five years thing, Lowrie won’t be with them for five years, he’s only got two more years of control after this season. So yeah, the Sox probably could’ve gotten more in trade for them had they held on to them and the two performed to their current levels here (Likewise no guarantee), but Cherington didn’t “torpedo” the future considering neither one of them had a future in Boston anyway.

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      • BX says:

        Jonathan— re: Reddick

        His K rate and BB/K numbers put him in the same neighborhood as Jay Bruce, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Morneau, Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, and Nick Swisher, to name a few.

        What is this about K rate regression?

        He’s a RF with plus defense and an awesome arm. Also: I’ll believe Kalish’s upside when he plays a full season in the majors.

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      • Spike says:

        “About the same as they look right about now: not playing.”

        Does this make any sense? Right now, both have become break out players. Saying that Lowrie would have been buried behind Mike Aviles is slightly myopic. It isn’t as if no one had ever seen what Lowrie was capable of doing when healthy. While Aviles is ok, it’s pretty clear that Lowrie’s ceiling is a bit higher and so you have to believe that he would have gotten playing time.

        And as far as Reddick, I’m not sure why the RF job wouldn’t have been his to lose even in a scenario with a healthy Crawford and Ellsbury for the other 2 spots. IIRC, the Sox added Cody Ross after trading away Reddick, so for all intents and purposes, they would not have had either Ross or Sweeney had they not made the Bailey for Reddick deal. And Kalish was always months away from playing so he wasn’t going to stop Reddick from playing either.

        Sounds like your arguments don’t make a lot of sense.

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      • Spike says:

        yeah, can’t believe someone is bringing up players like Kalish, Jackie Bradley and Iglesias to argue that the Sox don’t miss Reddick or Lowrie right now…

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      • deadpool says:

        Keep in mind that Kalish’s upside has become more muddled over the last year. There are some who think he may be a fourth outfielder, Dan in his chat yesterday said the same, unless I misremember.

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      • Steve says:

        Also, if your GM had Lowrie behind Jose Iglesias, it’s not an understandable excuse, it’s a mistake.

        Jose Iglesias cannot hit. At all. If the Sox want to make him their SS of the future and punt offense at SS, they should go for it.

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      • RC says:

        “Kalish is considered a better defender and has better plate discipline) ”
        According to who? Everything I’ve seen is that Kalish is a right fielder, and Reddick could stick at center, but may end up in Right because he has a cannon of an arm.

        That, and Kalish can’t stay healthy for any reasonable amount of time.

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      • BX says:

        The better defender comment is questionable.

        Reddick’s a passable CF. He’s not good as a CF, but he’s not going to be a net negative out there. Of course, his greatest asset is his arm, and it makes far more sense to maximize that by playing him in RF.

        Reddick’s better in RF because of the arm, but Kalish could be better than Reddick in CF or LF.

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    • everdiso says:

      Crap I forgot that the team I root for hasn’t made the playoffs in over a decade. Nevermind, forget about what I said earlier, you can’t blame me for being biased against the teams that constantly beat mine.

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    • RC says:

      Will Middlebrooks:

      Last 30gms: 106ab, .264avg, .307obp, .377slg, .681ops

      Kevin Youkilis

      Since Injury: 81pa, .211avg, .309 obp, .338 slg, .647 ops.

      Middlebrooks is having a tough time with the adjustments the league has made to him, but hes still better offensively than Youk. And he has much better range at 3b.

      Two bad hitters. One is young, and defensively good. The other is old, and not defensively good.

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  5. Marc says:

    They should ship him and cash to Arizona for Joe Saunders.

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    • Spike says:

      that prob makes the most sense… tho Saunders will prob get hammered in the ALE. It’s still worth a shot. I don’t see them getting any more for Youk now.

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    • Spike says:

      and you can never have enough LHers when facing the Yankees.

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    • KyleL says:

      Saunders isn’t going to replace anyone in their current rotation though, so they’d be better off with pretty much anything else in return. Maybe a three way trade sending Youkilis to Arizona, Saunders to Team X, and a couple of prospects from Team X to Boston could work though.

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  6. everdiso says:

    The guy has always been an overrated schmuck. If I were AA I’d offer him Omar Vizquel and to pick up $500k of his salary just to take a flier on the 1% chance he can go back to being the league average player he was from 2008-2010.

    Red Sox should trade this guy to the Yankees for Teixeira, it’d be a fitting end to highlight the mismanagment of those organizations.

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    • Steve says:

      Not sure why I am letting myself get baited, but Teixeira has hit .257/.352/.513 since May 1st. The yankees just won their 10th game in a row and currently sport the best record in the AL and are tied in the loss column for the best record in baseball.

      Teixeira is somewhat overpaid, but he is still a productive player on pace for 4.2 WAR even after his slow start.

      Teixeira and the Yankees are in no way comparable to Youkilis and the Sox.

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      • maguro says:

        “Teixeira and the Yankees are in no way comparable to Youkilis and the Sox.”

        Yet.

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      • everdiso says:

        you are responding to my troll there, btw.

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      • Jonathan says:

        While I’ll agree that what he said was idiotic, mind you that Teixeira has regressed in each year since the Yanks signed him (Though I will argue he’ll probably reverse that for this season at least, he’s actually hitting on the road for once and once his home numbers regress to norm, he should look good again) and he’s under contract for years to come. Youkilis has had ONE bad season (This year, even last year he was pretty great when healthy) and he’s only an obligation to the Sox for another three months. Sure, not comparable at all, but not in the way you seem to be getting at. I wouldn’t trade Youkilis straight up for Teixeira in a million years (Even barring Gonzalez’s presence) based on the contract disparity alone. Youk could maintain his current awful trajectory and still only cost the Sox about $7MM if the Sox cut bait, the Yankees are still on the hook for a full $100MM on Teixeira, though.

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  7. Stevesy says:

    The ‘Greek God of Walks’ is neither Greek nor walking…my faith in player monikers is at an all-time low.

    I would hold onto him, if I were the Red Sox. He has nearly no trade value, and an injury to one of three players (Ortiz, Middlebrooks, or Gonzalez) would mean an immediate need for him. I like them odds when it comes to insurance policies!

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    Buyer beware on this one, the guys splits indicate he’s been a complete product of circumstance. His OPS against righties is only .850, 80 points lower than against lefties, on the road it’s only .841, indicating he’s for the most part a product of Fenway Park, and most damning of all in high leverage situations it’s a measly .849, meaning this guy falls apart when it counts. All of these huge problems are magnified by his .774 OPS in Sep/Oct. I’d like to see how good this guy would be if he played for the Padres, only got to hit righties, and had every at-bat in a September high leverage situation, my guess is not that good. I think most GMs are smart enough to ignore the Boston hype train and that this guy will be staying put.

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    • Jonathan says:

      “His OPS against righties is only .850″

      Only?

      “on the road it’s only .841,”

      Again?

      “and most damning of all in high leverage situations it’s a measly .849, meaning this guy falls apart when it counts.”

      Again with the only! Evan Longoria, who is probably the best 3B in the MLB right now, sports a career OPS of .879. .840-.849 in what can be categorized as your weak splits is pretty damn good.

      Facts are facts and the fact is that Youkilis is generally a very, very good player when he’s healthy. Problem is he’s been very unhealthy lately. Right now, if I were an opposing team, I wouldn’t pull the trigger on him because of the way he’s currently performing, but let’s not pretend he was a great player in the past.

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      • Marc says:

        He was being sarcastic.

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      • B N says:

        I’m relatively certain this was highly sarcastic. In fact, I’m downright shocked that you could have missed that, given the final sentence about evaluating him based on playing some absurd splits-based role on the Padres.

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  9. Scott says:

    Shouldn’t his value be based on how other teams value him, not what the Red Sox value him? I mean, just because he might not be valuable to the Sox but the doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable to another team.

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    • Aaron (UK) says:

      It should be probably based on the value the second-best-fitting team place on him, if we assume there’s some sort of auction going on here.

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  10. yosoyfiesta says:

    His value is now tied to his performance and ability to stay on the field, the fact that he once hit, and hit very well, in the toughest division in baseball gives him some value. It’s certainly not this year’s performance that has teams interested in him. So if we’re talking White Sox and Dodgers…what’s the haul? Matt Thornton? Javy Guerra? The White Sox won’t move Addison Reed, he’s going to anchor that bullpen for a long time. Thornton is an aging arm like Youk is an aging bat. Pay 2/3 of Youk’s remaining salary and get Thornton from the Sox?

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    • Jonathan says:

      Realistically, if the Sox are trading Youkilis now, the best they’re going to get is a hish risk/high reward prospect who’s currently blocked in the system he’s coming from anyway. God knows, I couldn’t tell you anyone specifically, but we’re talking something an OF prospect from a team like the Dodgers as one example.

      Everyone talks about WMB being sent down, but I’d peg the real problem with building Youk’s trade value is Adrian Gonzalez’s presence on the roster. Youk SHOULD be at first and that’s what he SHOULD be shopped as. Problem is, keeping him at first clearly keeps Gonzo out of his element which is seemingly effecting his ability at the plate. Youk’s value may be monumentally diminished now, but the argument can be made that he was a legitimate elite player when he was a 1B (Peaked at 5.9 WAR in 08 and 09, one could possibly peg him as the best 1B in the AL until Gonzalez came over, the line between him and Teixeira was tiny).

      Getting him back at 1B full time isn’t going to make him a 5+ WAR player again, but it should at least get him into SOME kind of a rhythm. Whatever the Sox take is probably going to end up as an underpay and will be one of those “looks bad for them in hindsight” moves provided the buying team uses him as a 1B.

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      • RC says:

        “keeping him at first clearly keeps Gonzo out of his element which is seemingly effecting his ability at the plate”

        Gonzo is hitting pretty much exactly the same in RF as he was at 1B.

        Something happened to him late last year. Hes not the same hitter. Its got nothing to do with his defensive positioning.

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      • Cidron says:

        If not mistaken, wasnt Youk playing 1B during interleague games? We know his value there. Thus, the supposed Dodger interest in him. His trade value is low only due to his inability to stay healthy. On the positive sides are his multiple position ability, his bat somewhat, and of course, those “intangibles” that many people like to speak of when it comes to vets.

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  11. cpebbles says:

    He’s worth at least two negative wins per season on aesthetics alone. Seriously, who can watch that godawful stance of his and not be filled with murderous rage?

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  12. Chef says:

    What is he worth? About three fitty.

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  13. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Dunn sucked bad the whole season last year and he is bouncing back somewhat this year. Youk could turn it around too.

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    • Cidron says:

      Would you like to bet on that?

      Dunn had some changes to handle. An entire league of new pitchers, parks, and the DH role (which he despised).

      Youk is in the same park, facing the same pitchers, in his same role on his same team with the same teammates.

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  14. MikeS says:

    It’s good news for the White Sox that “…they shouldn’t have to give up any significant prospects for Youkilis” seeing how as they don’t have any.

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  15. Stoph says:

    I understand the point that with him both playing poorly and also being redundant due superior alternatives the leverage for the Red Sox is not high, however I am surprised you don’t acknowledge that the leverage they do have is present in the demand being generated by other teams and the potential competition could drive up his ‘price’. With all the obvious caveats that is.

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  16. mcbrown says:

    The biggest drag on Youk’s trade value is going to be Chase Headley – even if he rebounds a bit (but not to his peak level of course) he won’t be the best 3B available at the deadline. That limits his market to teams in need of a 1B or DH.

    I guess I can imagine some scenario in which Youk goes to the White Sox, but only because they lack the prospects to pry Headley away from the Padres.

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    • Cidron says:

      I disagree. Youk will appeal more to the teams that are in the hunt. He has been thru the wars, the playoff race, the playoffs and the world series. He KNOWS what needs to be done, what the players need to do. He would provide that to a team that is in it for today and in a tight race.

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      • Jason B says:

        “He KNOWS what needs to be done, what the players need to do.”

        Yeah, if Headley went to the playoffs he would probably suggest forfeiting, or hold the bat upside down, go stand way out in LF, or something…you gotta be there a few times to KNOW what to do.

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  17. Bryan Grosnick says:

    Chris, as part of the article’s close, you said this: “…he would be even more valuable moving back to first base.” Would you mind explaining this, as replacement-level bats at 1B are better than replacement-level bats at 3B, and Youkilis’s bat is the same at both positions?

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    • CJ says:

      Assumption being that Youk will a) defend better at first and b) not lose games to injury. That’s all.

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      • Cidron says:

        First base isn’t as taxing (on the body) defensively as third base is. Third is called the “hot corner” for a reason. Granted, first requires you to handle pretty much all outs save for K’s. But, in alot of cases that is nothing more than catching a throw, and if he cant do that… he is cooked.

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  18. Andrew says:

    the stats you’re analyzing are readouts, not causes, of a batter’s struggles. i feel like to make this analysis we need a number for bat speed and a number for pitch recognition speed (time to first swing flinch?). contact rate may be a proxy for bat speed, but it still only answers the question “is he hitting it?” which we all know the answer to. the real question is why?

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    • shthar says:

      The number for bat speed is ‘average’

      The number pitch recognition speed is ‘on base percentage’

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  19. shthar says:

    The first number in this article is the important one.

    33.

    Some men do great things at the age of 33.

    Not this guy.

    We don’t think he’s that old, cuz he didn’t come up till he was 25 and wasn’t a starter till he was 27.

    But he is, 33.

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  20. zipperz says:

    …apparently Youkilis is worth Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge, with Boston eating $5.5 million.

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