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Entries in Kevin Youkilis (9)


Grounding Youkilis

From 2008 through 2010, Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox saw 35% of his balls in play end up as grounders.  While he hit .393 on balls in play in that time frame, he only managed a .260 average on the grounders.  In 2011, his ground ball percentage rose to 41.4%, with a .270 BA on his grounders.  Over all this season, when he puts the ball in play, he's hitting .347.

The change in ground balls rates comes from changes in both the pitches Kevin sees, and his approach at the plate.  In the three previous seasons, pitchers worked him away, but used the entired vertical part of the strike zone:

Kevin Youkilis, pitch frequency, 2008-2010.In 2011, this shifted down a bit:

KevinYoukilis, pitch frequency, 2011.Pitchers are using the top of the strike zone less, and are not afraid to go out of the zone on the lower edge.

In the 2008-2010 time period, Kevin liked to swing at inside pitches, but he also used the whole vertical part of the inside of the plate:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2008-2010.Especially at Fenway Park, high pitches could result in fly balls that scrape the Green Monster for hits.  This season, he's looking lower:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2011.Pitchers work Kevin lower in 2011. He appears to be looking lower, swinging lower, and hitting more ground balls. That's hurting his batting average overall.


Arguing the Strike Zone in the A's-Red Sox game

Last night, both Jason Varitek (BOS) and Jonathan Papelbon (BOS) were ejected in the top of the ninth inning for arguing the strike zone with home plate umpire Tony Randazzo.  Varitek was ejected first after a Cliff Pennington (OAK) double that cut the Red Sox lead over the A's to two runs.

First, let's look at all the called balls Papelbon had from the game:

10 Pitches (Click image to enlarge)

And here's Papelbon's called ball rate heat map from that ninth inning which incorporates all the pitches he threw:

28 pitches (Click image to enlarge)

Other than that one spot middle-down, Randazzo really didn't miss any called strikes.  And as for that missed strike call?  Well, it was the third pitch of Landon Powell's plate appearance.  Papelbon had him 0-2 and that should have ended the atbat.  But it did little to effect the inning because he eventually struck Powell out swinging on the 7th pitch.

Kevin Youkilis also gave Randazzo a hard time after the ump rang the Red Sox third baseman up on a Brad Ziegler (Oak) curveball in the 8th inning.

(Click image to enlarge)

Ziegler started him out with two sinkers, and finished with two curveballs which both caught the outside of the plate, the last well within the pitchFX defined strike zone.

Ironically, one of the biggest missed strikes from last night came while Youkilis batted in the 4th inning.  Oakland starter Trevor Cahill threw him a 3-2 curveball that seemed to land right in the middle of the plate, yet was called ball four.

(Click image to enlarge)

Cahill's sixth, and last pitch of the AB looks to have caught more than enough of the plate, but Randazzo didn't see it that way.  The first pitch, a changeup, was also called a ball by Randazzo, but appears to have caught the corner.  Cahill would get David Ortiz (BOS) to hit into an inning ending double play two pitches after walking Youkilis, however.  So much like the missed called strike to Powell in the ninth, no harm done.


The Youkilis Paradox

Peter Abraham at the Boston Red Globe Extra Bases blog notes that Kevin Youkilis (BOS) is among the worst hitters in terms of batting average but one of the best in terms of OBP:


Youkilis is third in the American League in walks and eighth in strikeouts, the only player ranked in the top 10 in each category. As a result, he is 77th (out of 96 qualified players) in batting average at .213, but tied for 11th with an on-base percentage of .388.


If you can figure this out, please let me know.

During the previous three seasons, pitchers worked Kevin away, as his best chance for a hit was on the inside half of the plate:

Kevin Youkilis, in play avergae, 2008-2010.Kevin seemed to be aware that inside pitches gave him the best chance at collecting a hit, so that's where he swung:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2008-2010.Kevin was willing to cede the outside third of the plate to the pitcher and wait for a mistake inside.  In 2011, Kevin is just swinging less:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2011.He moved most of his swings to the inside third of the plate., and nothing is falling for him there:

Kevin Youkilis, in play average, 2011.He's getting his best results where he's not swinging much, and his worst results in what usually is a hot spot for him.  Note too, that by contracting the area in which he swings, he gives pitchers a much bitter area in which to record strikes.  His batting eye is still good enough that he draws a lot of walks, but by not swinging at pitches down the middle, Kevin gives the pitcher an advantage.

Unless Kevin lost bat speed, I suspect this is more bad luck than anything.   Youkilis still has the right approach to the game.  Wait for a pitch he can hit then smack it.  Sometimes they are hit right at a fielder, but over a whole season, they should fall for hits more often.  If this is still happening at the end of May, however, there might be a problem.

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