Kevin Youkilis Batting Lead Off Makes Sense For Red Sox
If there is one thing we’ve learnt from Bobby Valentine during his time thus far as manager of the Red Sox is that it is to expect anything and everything as an everyday possibility. So when the news broke that he was going to experiment with the batting lineup, meaning we could see multiple versions of the order well throughout the regular season, no one should be completely surprised to hear Kevin Youkilis‘s name batted around as a potential leadoff hitter.
Valentine has said he likes the analysis of certain hitters against particular pitchers. Meaning one game he might have Dustin Pedroia leading off if it means having a combination of Ellsbury, Gonzalez and Ortiz in a pivotal inning later in the game. Yes, he’s that detailed and analytical and you can expect things to continue.
When figuring out the batting lineup it’s hard not to think about Moneyball. To win games you have to score runs. How do you score runs? You need guys to get on base, something that Kevin Youkilis does extremely well; hence the name “the Greek God of Walks.”
His OBP is staggering. A career .391 on-base percentage with a career high of .413 coming just two years ago. To put it mildly he gets on base like no one else can. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he is the all time leader for getting hit by a pitch in Red Sox history, a stat that only adds to his OBP. His keen eye and plate discipline allow him to work the count and if he doesn’t get the pitch he can drive he simply takes a walk and let’s his teammates behind him do the damage.
This is where it turns interesting. ‘He let’s his teammates behind him do the damage.’ What a perfect scenario for a lead off guy. Get on base and let the big thunder drive in the runs.
Even Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, when asked by a reader, feels that Youkilis batting lead off would make sense. Cafardo compared this scenario to that of Dwight Evans when he would bat first during his time in a Red Sox uniform.
Now we have a writer who follows the club all year thinking that this might make sense and we’ve got the eccentric manager in Valentine just crazy enough to try and pull this off. It all makes sense when looking at it on paper. Youkilis gets on base a lot and could free up the number three or four spot for Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia.
But the paper analysis is as far as it should go. Yes it makes sense with the numbers but Kevin Youkilis is not a lead off hitter. He never has been and he never will be. Sometimes you have to go beyond the numbers and this is one of those times.
Youkilis is a run producing, middle of the lineup type of bat that you can rely on to drive in those runs when the club so desperately needs a long double off the Green Monster. Sure he has an OBP far above average, but his game is power and production.
Not counting the 2010 season in which Youkilis missed 60 games to injury, he has repeatedly driven in 80+ RBI every season for the previous four seasons. His best year came in 2008 when he drove in 115 RBI. When he’s healthy he’s a huge threat at the plate to deliver that clutch hit when the Sox need it to bring in a run, not to produce a base runner.
There are three heavily talented individuals that can get on base; Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford. Add in their speed, something Youkilis lacks, and it makes more sense to have one of those three leading off with the threat of turning a walk or a single into a double by the swipe of a bag.
Also, consider that Youkilis has publicly stated he’s comfortable batting anywhere in the lineup EXCEPT lead-off and suddenly Valentine’s decision to possibly put Youk as the number one batter makes one ponder. After all, having Youkilis uncomfortable in a position where he doesn’t want to be is something the Red Sox do not need. Valentine already has to try and get Carl Crawford comfortable with the idea of batting lead off, so let Youkilis bat fourth or fifth where he’s most valuable.
But as I said, expect the unexpected with Valentine, even if it means Youkilis walking up to the plate for the first plate appearance of the night for the Red Sox.
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