You, K!

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 Effectâ„¢: 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.

15 comments… add one
  • Always raggin’ on poor Mike Lowell. He’s just batting .343/.404/.503 since July 1, and .362/.443/.551 in August, when he was supposed to have fallen off a cliff…
    I am concerend about Youk though. The Ks especially are disturbing.

    Paul SF August 21, 2007, 10:38 am
  • Lowell this year has been divergent from his career norms. It’s a great thing, frankly. But until now he’s had issues in the later months and Youk is picking up that trend, it seems. I wasn’t meaning to pick on Lowell this year — he’s defied expectations and continued to hit really well.

    SF August 21, 2007, 10:40 am
  • Nick Cafardo basically pitched a nice big contract to the Sox ownership today in the Globe.

    Kevin SF August 21, 2007, 10:46 am
  • Cafardo doesn’t have a clue when Mark Texeira is a free agent – he mentions him as if he’s available this offseason, though he’s not a FA until post-2008. How can these writers not fact-check?

    SF August 21, 2007, 10:56 am
  • Youk needs to get back into that groove of taking the walk when they give it to him. I think he’s trying to hit the ball really hard lately, like he’s looking for the big hit or HR, when in reality, he’s not a power hitter at all. He should concentrate on what hot him this far: making contact and getting on base at an alarming rate. The normal Youk fouls off pitches at a Damon-esque clip, makes the pitcher throw strikes, and doesn’t chase anyting three inches off the plate or high. The new Youk is slumping to be sure, but I think it has more to do with getting away from his strengths at the plate than a late season breakdown.
    Once he starts hitting the ball up the middle again, and not taking Gary Sheffield swings at high fastballs everything will be okay. Someone should remind him that he’s not a power threat on most days, and that he should stop trying to be one.

    Anonymous August 21, 2007, 1:13 pm
  • me.

    Brad August 21, 2007, 1:14 pm
  • His OBP is .389? QUELLE HORREURE!

    YF August 21, 2007, 1:51 pm
  • YF, that’s a silly comment. As you well know you can’t look at statistics in isolation and understand the full picture.
    Why the flat-earth attitude?

    SF August 21, 2007, 1:56 pm
  • Without checking to confirm or reject this theory, I hypothesize that Youk has really not been the same since he was moved to the five slot to replace the then-slumping Drew (who is still treated like he’s slumping, even though he’s not. At all.). I think he began to feel he needed to produce more power, started swinging too hard and began to slump, started getting away from his style as he began pressing, slump continued, etc etc etc… Just a guess.

    Paul SF August 21, 2007, 2:15 pm
  • Wouldn’t his drop in BA account entirely for his drop in OBP? That is…isn’t he walking even more now, no matter the strikeouts? Since his BA dropped by 68 and his OBP by just 43, that is. Or am I missing a piece of my math?
    His second-half decline is a bit saddening, but not unexpected. Did he finish at .279 last year? I always hoped he’d be a .300 hitter, maybe a bit better. He still has a good shot at that, but I dunno, I don’t feel good about it. Here’s your real second-half slump. Thank goodness Lowell (so far) has maintained his form basically all season.

    Devine August 21, 2007, 2:57 pm
  • Paul, by that do you mean that Drew is not slumping, he’s just not good?
    Side story…
    I did a project a while back that involved Tommy Lasorda and I had to deal with his assistant a lot, who was actually part of the Dodgers baseball operations group. This was right around the Drew signing and I asked him what to expect…
    “Expect to be frustrated….he never comes up big in the clutch, he won’t hit more than 25 homers, which for the money he’s getting is ridiculous, his defense is poor, especially with the angles at Fenway, and, undoubtedly, he will be injured, more than once, in 2007.”

    LocklandSF August 21, 2007, 3:12 pm
  • Youks is in a bad slump, no doubt, and it does seem to be an annual thing. But what probably matters more now is less his hitting in August-September, and more his hitting in October-November. To get ahead of ourselves a little.

    Hudson August 21, 2007, 4:54 pm
  • SF has cast his vote in the Shaughnessy Half Full Half Empty survey. .380 on base is half empty.

    ugh August 21, 2007, 5:14 pm
  • Where did I say anything about half full or half empty?
    This post is about trends.

    SF August 21, 2007, 6:43 pm
  • J.D. Drew, last 15 games: .367/.436/.531
    J.D. Drew, since June 1: .288/.372/.447
    J.D. Drew, OPS+ w/RISP: 114
    J.D. Drew, OPS+ w/men on base: 110
    J.D. Drew, OPS+, men on 2/3: 191
    J.D. Drew, OPS+ w/RISP, 2 outs: 111
    J.D. Drew, OPS+, Late and close: 110

    Paul SF August 21, 2007, 7:37 pm

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