The Impact of Kevin Youkilis Switching Sox

As Kevin Youkilis kisses goodbye to Boston, White Sox fans should be excited about the monstrous hole that he will fill at third base.

A .174 batting average, one home run, 16 RBIs, 16 walks and eight extra-base hits in 201 at-bats — that’s the kind of production that the Chicago White Sox have gotten from their so-called third basemen this season. Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson have been nothing short of nauseating at the hot corner thus far, which seems to have been a pattern since Joe Crede left town. Since 2007, the Sox have had by far the lowest WAR (wins above replacement) – and the only negative WAR for that matter – for third basemen (-3.1). Basically, my left nut could have provided three more wins over that span than Josh Fields, Omar Vizquel, Mark Teahen, Morel, Hudson and any other player that contributed next to nothing as a platoon third baseman. Five years later, Kenny Williams decided he’d had enough.

On Sunday afternoon, the White Sox traded utility man Brent Lillibridge and the under-performing right-handed pitcher, Zach Stewart, to the Red Sox for three-time All-Star and two-time World Series winner Kevin Youkilis. As unexcited as some Sox fans are because of Youkilis’ injury history and recent offensive decline, there’s no way in hell that Chicago is not a better team with him. They didn’t give up much to get him, as Lillibridge is very replaceable as a bench player at best and, although he was pretty highly touted out of Texas Tech and is still young at the age of 25, Zach Stewart’s 6.00 ERA and 3.00 (yes, 3.00) home runs given up per nine innings just weren’t going to help this team win a championship this season. As far as Youkilis’ injury history is concerned, Fangraphs’ Chris Cwik explained why exactly Sox fans shouldn’t have to worry as much as they have been:

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 Buerhle 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.

Of course, Kevin Youkilis is different from those guys, and nothing is guaranteed, but Schneider’s track record of keeping injury-plagued players on the field should count for something. Yes, his numbers are down, and he’s having the worst statistical season of his career (.233/.315/.377 splits), but I’d like to think that a change of scenery (Youkilis hates Bobby Valentine – shocker, right?), his incredibly hard-working mentality and a new training staff will only help the Greek God of Walks get back to old form. Even if he doesn’t get fully back there (which he probably won’t because he’s now 33 years old), whatever production he provides in the lineup for the rest of this season, and hopefully beyond (Chicago has a $13 million team option for him next season or can buy him out for $1 million), should be infinitely better than the buffoonery that is the Morel/Hudson platoon. Even if it isn’t working out early on, the acquisition gives the White Sox until the July 31 trade deadline to decide if another upgrade is necessary. But, given the hitter friendliness of U.S. Cellular Field, a vast improvement from Youkilis is more than possible. Take a look at last season’s right-handed home run park factors, provided by Fangraphs:

After playing 8.5 seasons in a park that represses right-handed home run power (Fenway Park), Youk’ will be playing in the friendliest home run park in the league for right-handed hitters on the Southside. That’s huge news for a guy currently struggling to find his swing, so let’s hope it all starts coming to fruition soon.

With the ever-gaping hole at third base now filled up, Jose Quintana pitching like the second coming of Tom Glavine, and John Danks set to return at the end of July or early August, the time is now for the White Sox to make their move as they enter the second half of the season. Kenny Williams has a month to figure out whether or not this is the ideal roster built for October. Nonetheless, the addition of Kevin Youkilis will bring another veteran leader to the clubhouse and may very well turn the already solid White Sox offense into a legitimate juggernaut.

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Posted on June 26, 2012, in White Sox and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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