What would this site be without yours truly, the wet blanket. So amidst the good vibes of another brilliant outing in Tampa from Tim Wakefield, we would be remiss not to point out the worrisome struggles of one of our favorite players and more talented youngsters, Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis has been mired in a terrible slump throughout the later stages of this summer. In April and May he hit .291 and .402, respectively, and his average peaked at a ridiculous .358 on May 29th. Since then, he’s steadily dropped, shedding 68 points to his current .290. Worse, his OBP has plummeted in equally significant fashion, from an eye-popping .432 on that same day in May down to .389 as of today. So, 67 points in batting average and 43 points in OBP, along with 62 points in slugging, gone from Youk’s line. What’s up? Well, strikeouts. Youk has whiffed in his last 12 games, fanning 19 times. That’s positively Wily Mo-esque, not something you’d expect from a player who has established bat control as one of his bes traits. The most troublesome aspect of Youkilis’ slide is that it follows the Mike Lowell Effect™: Youk is showing a propensity for late-season slides. Note his career monthly OPS numbers, with this season’s in parentheses:
- April – .834 (.809)
- May – 1.008 (1.126)
- June – .823 (.762)
- July – .686 (.704)
- August – .764 (.641)
- September – .598 (TBD)
His numbers need to be contextualized, of course. In 2005 Youk was a bit player and in 2006 he was nursing a foot injury. But this year he’s healthy (as far as we know) and still the numbers are plummeting. He’s still seeing pitches, but he’s making less contact and hitting the ball with far less power. He’s five for his last 34 (all singles), with those aforementioned 19 Ks mixed in. Since his second plate appearance on August 12th (ending a streak of four free passes in a row) he’s only walked twice. Should we be concerned? Is Youk establishing a pattern of late-season fades? Is career too short at this point to make that judgement or generalization? Should Tito give Youk a few days off to rest? For me, Youk is far too important a player, both deft with the glove and money at the plate (when fresh, it would seem), and I can’t envision a Sox run in the post-season (or through the end of the season) without Youk banging. Surely Youk’s dropoff is of major concern.