Kevin Youkilis Changes Sox

Kevin Youkilis needed a change of scenery. With the White Sox desperate for help at third, they happily obliged. While the 33-year-old third baseman carries a strong career line, Youkilis is batting just .233/.315/.377 this season. But Youkilis will also be moving into a better situation. He won’t have to worry about losing playing time to anyone, and will be moving to a more homer-friendly park. Even though Youkilis will be an upgrade for the White Sox, it’s unclear whether his performance will be strong enough for fantasy teams.

There are a few reasons to be concerned about Youkilis’ performance. For one, he’s getting old. Youkilis is a player that exhibits some “old player skills,” meaning he relies on power and walks, but contributes little in speed. He doesn’t fit the description perfectly, as he isn’t an elite home run hitter and does hit for decent average. Still, Youkilis is now 33-years-old, and it’s plausible to think his struggles could be related to old age.

There’s definitely reason to believe that Youkilis is in decline. I recently wrote up Youkilis on FanGraphs, and noted that he hasn’t been able to hit fastballs with the same effectiveness as in the past. He’s also struggled to make contact this season. All of his contact rates — O-Contact%, Z-Contact% and Contact% — are down this season. He just hasn’t been the same player this season.

Some of those struggles might be the result of a back injury. While Youkilis does have a lengthy injury history — the last time he had 600 plate appearances was in 2008 — he’s joining a team with one of the best medical staffs in baseball. Led by Herm Schneider, the White Sox have been able to keep injury-prone players on the field. Schneider managed to keep Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin relatively healthy in the mid-to-late-2000s, and has properly managed Jake Peavy and Chris Sale this season. Outside of John Danks‘ injury this season, the White Sox’s three main starters for quite some time — Danks, Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd — rarely missed starts. Schneider also worked wonders with Jim Thome. The White Sox’s training staff does exceptional work, and Youkilis should benefit from working with them.

If Youkilis can stay on the field, he could see some nice improvement in his numbers.

Park Factors K BB 1B 2B 3B HR wOBA
Fenway Park 97 101 102 129 84 95 106
US Cellular Field 102 117 96 96 62 135 103

*The numbers in the chart are for right-handed hitters.

Both parks are tailored to hitters, but US Cellular Field highlights Youkilis’ strengths. And while he should lose some doubles, hopefully, those will turn into home runs in The Cell, which carries a 135 park factor to right-handed hitters. The White Sox’s home park also plays better to walks, which is Youkilis’ biggest strength. As long as he can walk and hit for power, Youkilis should provide value. He’ll still have an excellent opportunity to do that in Chicago.

Youkilis hasn’t been himself this year. And while a trade to Chicago doesn’t guarantee his success, there are a few reasons for optimism. Given how well his new home park fares with home runs, there’s a chance for Youkilis to salvage his season. Now that he’s working with one of the best training staffs in the game, he should stay on the field long enough to provide that value. But if age has caught up with Youkilis, there’s little the White Sox can do to save 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.


11 Responses to “Kevin Youkilis Changes Sox”

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  1. Andrew says:

    I didn’t know that ballparks had walk factors.

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    • Mark says:

      Yeah I was going to say I find it really strange that a park would have walk factors. Or strikeout factors.

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      • Pander says:

        My guess would be the effectiveness of the batter’s eye, what the backstop looks like, and the amount of foul territory.

        USCF has a particularly good batter’s eye, which is a dark green/black area all across the lower centerfield concourse. The foul area is perhaps a bit below average (especially along outfield side walls, where there is a danger of injury in addition to limited dimensions). The pitcher sees an asymmetrical brick wall with fans in the scout seats, which might provide a slight distraction to pitchers.

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      • jcxy says:

        could this be objectively tested rather than making deductions from data?

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      • Pat G says:

        more than the batters eye, the amount of foul territory, the outfield dimensions, will change how pitchers pitch.

        I think the most obvious case is petco, where pitchers can be more aggressive in the zone because its damn hard to go deep there. I would guess that petco has a low walk factor, and slightly higher strikeout factor.

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  2. Adam W says:

    IIRC it’s somewhat correlated with HR factor. Makes sense if you think about it – pitchers are more likely to give a batter something to hit in Petco than in the Cell, since they know it’s probably going to stay in the ballpark.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      doesnt it also have to do with foul territory? less room to catch the ball foul means deeper counts, so more Ks and BBs.

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      • ilzilla says:

        It could also be affected by each park’s batter’s eye.

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      • cable fixer says:

        i feel like this is a big part of it–more foul ground=more foul outs, less foul ground=more pitcher/batter outcomes

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  3. SteveJobs says:

    I think every single fantasy baseball site I look at couldn’t resist the “Youk changes Sox” low-hanging fruit.

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