The Real 2012 AL MVP

Mike Trout? Miguel Cabrera? Please. Sure, numbers and metrics matter (at least the ones I selectively use to make my case depending on what I choose to argue beforehand). But if want a player who has actually made the difference in his team’s (probably) successful playoff run, there is only one choice for the 2012 American League’s Most Valuable Player: Kevin Youkilis.

Okay, I’ll admit it: the title and first paragraph are just meant to grab attention. I do not really think that Youkilis should be the 2012 AL MVP. However, Youkilis has had a big impact on the White Sox since being coming over from Boston at the end of June. If the current standings hold (White Sox three games ahead of the Tigers), one could reasonably argue that Youkilis has been the difference the American League Central championship this year.

Brent Morel was supposed to be the White Sox’ third baseman this season. Sure, he was mostly a terrible hitter in 2011, but over the last month of that season, went on a Cistulli-baffling tear that may have convinced the White Sox to give him another chance. The kids were going to play. Morel got 125 plate appearances that made his terrible 2011 (.245/.287/.366, 72 wRC+) look down right appealing: .177/.225/.195, 11 wRC+. It is unlikely that Morel was or is that horrible, and the back strain that ended up sending him to the disabled list may have had something to do with it. However, given his prior performances in both the majors and minors, it was hardly encouraging.

Either way, the White Sox decided they could not abide Morel’s performance, and near the end of May signed Orlando Hudson, who had been released by the Padres. Hudson had never played third base in the majors, but the White Sox were pretty desperate. Hudson’s bat had been dropping off the last few years, but it looked completely dead the first few months of the season for the Padres (.211/.260/.317, 59 wRC+). It was a small sample, but the Padres understandably decided there was no point to waiting around for Hudson to rebound while they were rebuilding. Moving away from the Padres’ park did not help Hudson much, however, as he was only barely better than Morel: .182/.256/.281 with a 39 wRC+ for the White Sox while playing mostly third base.

We do not reiterate to go over the whole Youkilis-in-Boston saga. The White Sox basically got him for a back of the rotation arm/middle reliver (Zach Stewart) and a utility player (Brent Lillibridge). The Red Sox picked up a sizable chunk of the rest of Youkilis’ 2012 salary, too. Youkilis has been very good, for the White Sox. Since coming to the South Side, Youkilis has hit .234/.360/.460 (121 wRC+) and put up 1.4 WAR. While he did look mostly bad in his time with the Red Sox this year, if you look at Youkilis’ hitting numbers with the White Sox this year, they look very similar to those he put up in 2011 in Boston. In fact, in 2012 compared to 2011, Youkilis is actually walking more and striking out less while hitting for more power (his BABIP is down). This is not to get into the Red Sox’ side of things, but simply to note that while there were some troubling signs, there was also plenty of reasons for the White Sox to have confidence in Youkilis’ ability to play at something like his 2011 performance.

So just how more valuable has Youkilis been than the White Sox’ alternatives? Obviously, it doesn’t simply work to “add up the WARs” of Hudson and Morel, and subtract that from Youkilis’ WAR in his time with the White Sox (although that adds up to about three wins, which would have been convenient for making the case that the Youkilis trade was the key to Chicago’s divisional title). We have to look at what Hudson and/or Morel would likely have done had they played the rest of the season compared to Youkilis.

Normally I would use ZiPS RoS projections for this, but this late in the season, the listed lines do some funny things. So I will use Oliver true talent projection for 2012. We already have Youkilis .356 wOBA for the White Sox, we don’t need his true talent for this hypothetical exercise — that’s playing time he has already received. It’s Morel and Hudson that are the counter-factual cases here (and yes, I know that Hudson played some after the Youkilis trade, this is not meant to be that precise). Oliver has Morel’s true talent wOBA as .278. Now, Morel may very well be better than Youkilis with the glove, but even over just half of a season, the difference between a .278 wOBA and a .356 is about two wins. Oliver has Hudson’s true tlaent wOBA at .311 — about a win over half of a season. And I doubt that Hudson is significantly better than Youkilis at third, at least over just half of a season. (I’ll spare you the details of Eduardo Escobar‘s Oliver projection).

This sort of counter-factual baseball history is fraught with problems: the uncertainty of projections, timing of events, other moves Chicago could have made, and so on. However, scoring more runs makes a team more likely to win. Having Youkilis on the team just for half of a season probably has given the White Sox at least one more win in the standings than they would have had with the otherwise. That may not seem like much, but that is actually a pretty big short-term upgrade compared to most mid-season trades. Sure, the White Sox are up by three games now, so Youkilis has not been the sole difference. Their lead also might get bigger in last few days of the season (it might also shrink). However, although it is clearly silly to suggest that Kevin Youkilis has been the Most Valuable Player in the American League in 2012, that trade does have a claim to being best short-term trade of the season.



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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


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eric_con
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eric_con
3 years 10 months ago

haha Carson’s article from last year is hilarious

Sam
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Sam
3 years 10 months ago

So he’s been almost as valuable as Brandon Inge.

gnomez
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gnomez
3 years 10 months ago

BRANDON INGE!

The Ronin
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The Ronin
3 years 10 months ago

I am guessing that English is not Klaassen’s first language as evidenced by the use of the phrases “being coming” and “We do not reiterate to go over.”

Sleight of Hand Pro
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Sleight of Hand Pro
3 years 10 months ago

ooooooooooooooh, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuurn.

Eminor3rd
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Eminor3rd
3 years 10 months ago

He has added much more than a win. 1-2 WAR is an average, his contributions, context neutral, would average about a win in the standings. But what actually happened is he hit a bunch of huge homers, made a bunch of huge plays on defense in key situations that there is no reason to believe any of the others would have been able to pull off.

Manny Machado
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Manny Machado
3 years 10 months ago

I am the most valuable 3rd base addition this year. Not Youk.

Sleight of Hand Pro
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Sleight of Hand Pro
3 years 10 months ago

no you arent. youve looked overmatched from the get go.

Manny Machado
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Manny Machado
3 years 10 months ago

Yep, 24-12 since my arrival. Myself and Fox McCloud have stabilized the left side of the defense. I’m sure we would be where we are if Tolleson and Omar Quesadilla were the platoon at 3rd.

Wolf O'Donnell
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Wolf O'Donnell
3 years 10 months ago

Don’t get too cocky, Star Fox!

AndrewYF
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AndrewYF
3 years 10 months ago

Do a barrel roll!

Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo
3 years 10 months ago

So Youkilis sucking a little less than when in Boston makes him MVP material??
Or sucking less than the incumbent?? Wow.

Fan of Baseball
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Fan of Baseball
3 years 10 months ago

Was anybody else expecting Bruce Chen?

MikeS
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MikeS
3 years 10 months ago

Replacing Alex Rios and Adam Dunn with Alex Rios and Adam Dunn has also been worth about 10 wins.

Richie
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Richie
3 years 10 months ago

++++++++++++

To the power of 10 or something!

Richie
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Richie
3 years 10 months ago

Unless you’re subtly criticizing the article. Which I very much like. The article, that is.

phattonez
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phattonez
3 years 10 months ago

With these minuscule differences in WAR, late season rentals are a waste of talent/money. At least with Youkilis you had him for a long time. In the Adrian Gonzalez case, you’d have to be a fool to expect him to make any sizable difference in the 1 month that the Dodgers got him for.

jessef
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3 years 10 months ago

In 53 games for the Dodgers, Manny Ramirez was worth 3.1 fWAR, and that includes a pretty solid read on his defence: UZR discredited him with 7.3 runs, almost three quarters of a win and right around where he historically was

SomethinHappy
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SomethinHappy
3 years 10 months ago

Latent, tanelt, nattle, tlaent. Geart artilce.

Nick
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Nick
3 years 10 months ago

I would rather see Yoenis Cespedes win MVP over Youk if it’s not going to Trout, Hamilton, or Cabs. Seriously.

And I like what Youk has done for the Sox. But uh, Dunn and Rios being what they were supposed to be in addition to Sale’s incredible breakout is the main reason the White Sox are where they are. Youk probably is a difference-maker for that team having the lead on Detroit right now. Still.

Good article regardless.

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