Kevin Youkilis is no longer a member Boston Red Sox. His career is not over (although given his age, injuries, and recent performance, the end may very well be in sight), but some of what has been written about him in the wake of the trade seems to have the character of a eulogy (Youlogy? Sorry…). A good deal of that reaction is likely because Youkilis has become so closely identified with outstanding and memorable Red Sox teams, an identification that finally transcended the notoriety (or stigma) of being thought of as a “Moneyball guy.” “Youk” replaced the “Greek God of Walks.”
Yet Youkilis’ earlier, “literary” persona still remains, lurking in the background. Youkilis is not retiring, and may have a few more productive years left, so it seems premature to do a “best moments ever” post for him. However, it also seems like the end of, well, something, now that his sour mug will be housed by a different cap. In memory of the Greek God of Walks’ domain, we present his three greatest walks as a member of the Red Sox, according to Win Probability Added.
3. August 27, 2008. Surely this game is one of the all-time classics in the rivalry between Boston and New York. What more could one ask for on a Wednesday night in August? The Yankees 10.5 were games back from the division lead and seven behind the Red Sox. Red Sox great Paul Byrd was facing putative Yankees Savior Sidney Ponson. Goosebumps. Somehow, Boston managed to pull this one out, 11-3.
The game was not always so wide open, though. Byrd and Ponson had a real “duel” going as Sir Sidney took the mound at the top of the fifth with the score tied at two. Ponson managed to strike out Coco Crisp, but the gave up singles to then-rookie sensation Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. David Ortiz walked to load the bases. Youkilis also walked to score a run and put Boston up for good. The Sox would later blow things open in the eighth, but at the time it happened, Youkilis walk was big deal, and at .108 WPA was the third biggest “shift” of the game, and the third most important walk of Youkilis career in terms of in-game impact.
2. August 6, 2004. Back in 2004, Kevin Youkilis was still a rookie third baseman known as “Mr. Moneyball” by the clever nickname-bestowers in the Boston clubhouse. I’m not sure if anything else interesting happened for the Sox that season.
The Red Sox ended up losing, but they put up a heck of a fight against Tigers’ hurler Mike Maroth. Down 3-2 in the top of the sixth, Cap’n Jason Varitek led off with a homer against Maroth. After Maroth got a couple more outs, Boston managed to get base hits from Bill Mueller (haven’t thought about him in a while) and David McCarty (drafted number three overall by the Twins way back when), followed by a walk from Johnny Damon (good thing he retired with his dignity intact). Detroit manager Alan Trammell was on it, though, and pulled Maroth Roberto Novoa, who promptly walked Youkilis to tie up the game. At .145, that was the second-biggest WPA shift of both the game, and also Youkilis second-”biggest” walk.
1. July 3, 2011. Youkilis may not have taken to third base on his return there all that well, and he did miss about a fourth of the season, but despite the obvious decline, he still had a pretty nice season overall last year: 126 wRC+, 3.7 WAR. I am sure that the Red Sox’ 2011 highlight DVD (very popular, I hear) contained this free pass that lead to their victory over the ancient, hated foe: the Houston Astros.
Jokes about “duels” aside, this game was mostly dominated by pitching. The Red Sox managed to finally get on the board to take a 1-0 lead when Brett Wallace committed an error on a Varitek grounder, allowing Youkilis to score. Wallace redeemed himself by scoring from second on an Angel Sanchez single in the next innings. That’s what speed do.
The run scoring then stopped until the top of the ninth. Mark Melancon came into the game for Houston (he was pretty good last year, I wonder whatever happened to that guy?). After Varitek made an out, Drew Sutton managed a walk and Ellsbury singled to put runners on first and second. Pedroia grounded into a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners, Astros’ manager Brad Mills decided to have Melancon walk Adrian Gonzalez (was this really only a year ago?) to load the bases. I am not a big fan of intentional walk, but given how well Gonzalez was hitting in 2011 and Youkilis’ relative decline, without doing all the math, it might have been somewhat understandable. Well, it didn’t work, as Youkilis worked the bases-loaded walk to drive in the game-winning run for Boston. It was the biggest walk (according to WPA) for his career at .314 WPA… so far.