Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Youkilis - Like Jeter But Without the Price Tag?

Recently, I saw a Yankees fan write that she wasn't scared of Youkilis at the plate. In fact, their exact words were, "if it’s the bottom of the ninth with a full count, I want Kevin up to bat". Now as someone who's been in the stands when Kevin's hit an incredible 2-out, game winning 2-run home run, I took offense to that. So I did a little research, and you might be surprised what I found out.

For the purposes of framing this argument, I'll use the old, played-out technique of Player A vs. Player B. And I apologize for doing this, but in this case, I think it's relative.

Player A hit .288/.390/.453 with 16 home runs and 83 RBI. They also hit .329/.429/.573 with runners scoring scoring position, driving in 67 runs in those 149 at bats.

Player B hit .322/.388/.452 with 12 home runs and 73 RBI. They also hit .354/.426/.456 with runners in scoring position, driving in 62 runs in those 147 at bats.

The numbers are eerily similar. I think most people would give the advantage to Player A. Even though he didn't hit for as much average he was more productive overall. As many may have already guessed based on the name of this article, the two players are Kevin Youkilis and Derek Jeter. And knowing that, an astute baseball fan can probably tell which player is which based on the averages and home run totals. But I doubt many baseball fans would have known that the two had such similar numbers.

Now knowing who the players are, Yankees fans may make the argument that while Youkilis drove in 10 more runs, Jeter scored 17 more runs. But that ignores the fact the Jeter had 558 at bats in the 2 spot of the order compared to Youkilis' 256. Over those at bats, Youkilis scored a run every 5.22 at bats. In that same spot in the order, Jeter scored a run every 6.2 at bats.

Now for another comparison. You already know who the players are, but this puts them on an even playing field without the name recognition of Jeter.

Player A has hit .309/.377/.469. in the postseason.

Player B has hit .373/.459/.725 in the postseason.

Judging by Jeter's reputation, I think most be inclined to put his name in place of the player with the better hitting line. And they'd be incorrect. Jeter is actually Player A. I concede here, Jeter has had a much longer history of doing well in the postseason. He has 495 postseson at bats compared to Youkilis' 51. But can you punish a player for what is out of his control? I don't think anyone would take Coco Crisp over Jacoby Ellsbury just because Crisp has had more at bats.

And now for another comparison, but this time I won't be masking the names. Kevin Youkilis won his first Gold Glove last year in his second year at first base. He made 0 errors in 1084 total chances at first. Among others at his position he ranked first in the majors in fielding percentage and sixth in Zone Rating.

On the other hand, Derek Jeter made 18 errors in 607 total chances. Among others at his position, he ranked 16th in the majors in fielding percentage and last in the majors in Zone Rating. From 2005 to 2007, the Bill James Handbook ranks Derek Jeter as the worst defensive shortstop in baseball.

Here a Yankees fan could make the point that while Youkilis is a much better fielder, Derek Jeter is much more valuable on the bases. And indeed, they'd have a point here. Although Jeter had a bad year on the bases in 2007, getting caught more than half as many times as he stole a base, Jeter typically steals about 22 bases a year and gets caught five or six times. Youkilis typically steals five or six bases and gets caught twice.

If you look at Win Shares, Jeter finished with 24 last year, while Youkilis finished with 20. Those are rather similar numbers, especially when you consider that Jeter had much more playing time and played more of that time in front of the heart of his team's batting order.

Considering everything, it would appear as if the abilities of Youkilis and Jeter are very similar. You could even make the argument that Youkilis was the better player last year. Youkilis is also much younger, and has much less major league experience. His abilities may improve over the years. And of course he costs a fraction as much as Jeter.

So next time a Yankees fan tells you they're not scared of Youkilis, you can tell them that you're not afraid of Jeter then. Cause Youkilis outhit Jeter last year, especially in Jeter's trademark areas: with runners in scoring position and in the postseason. Then you can tell them that Youk's goatee was boss.


Kiniski said...

Youk also had a better WARP than Jeter

The Man said...

Yeah Youk is probably an equal player to Jeter these days, but even though I hate Jeter the guy has been consistant throughout his career..

and Youk prob doesn't compare with Jeter in his younger days..

Casey said...

Nice work. And you can add that Youk carries a lunch pail; Jeter a man bag.


Ethan Michaels said...

True, Jeter broke into the majors much younger (22) and has pretty much been at the same level since he broke in.

Ethan Michaels said...

Casey, I should have just left the argument at that : )

It would have saved me quite a bit of time.

Michael said...

since this is a sox blog i'm not going to go on about jeter vs youk; they are both great players. let me posit this question though:

so as a yankee fan i'm pretty sure i can speak for the majority of us in saying that in the bottom of the 9th in need of a hit we want the captain standing in.

now surely you're not saying that you'd want youk over big papi...are you?

Michael said...

PS i personally would MUCH rather see jd drew or lugo in a game against the yanks!

Ethan Michaels said...

I get why Jeter is so respected. He came up at age 22 and has been doing this for a decade. My point was more that Youkilis is a really good hitter. And for the sake of making that argument to a Yankees fan, I thought Jeter was a good example.

Why wouldn't you want A-Rod? He was more clutch that Jeter last year, wasn't he? That doesn't mean Jeter isn't a good guy to have in the spot though, just like Ortiz being the most clutch hitter on the Red Sox doesn't mean that Youkilis isn't a bad guy to have in that spot.

Ethan Michaels said...

*Youkilis isn't a good guy

Michael said...

i love a-rod and am thrilled that he's staying with the team. and yeah he had many clutch hits this year in the 9th inning especially. i'm sure you remember one at fenway in particular :)

i still would take jeter if i absolutely had to have a hit though.

and i do agree with you about having youk in a key spot. sure, why not. yes, i prefer ortiz or even lowell but sure....youk gets on base

Michael said...

i see you have discovered Joe's blog the Statistician Magician. he's a great writer and also a frequent and welcome visitor at some of the yankee blogs during the season

gino said...

Jeter + Hall of Famer

Youkilis + a nice role player

Ethan Michaels said...

Yeah, it's pretty interesting.

Ethan Michaels said...

Gino, Mo's a Hall of Famer too but anyone would still take Papelbon if they wanted to win in 2008. I was comparing their abilities, not their credentials. Credentials don't play the game for you.

Joe said...

While I like Youkilis, Jeter is 33, while Youkilis is right in his prime. Jeter is definitely still good, but he was playing hurt this season too. Jeter has had 8 seasons where he posted an OPS+ of 120 or greater from the SS position, while Youk hasn't had any yet from 1B. And Jeter's defensive value this season according to Win Shares (which has flaws I believe too as you Ethan discussed) was still much greater. However overall they were fairly close this year. But they are both good, But Jeter is a hall of famer, while Youk will almost definitely not be one. Although don't get me wrong, I like Youkilis, and love his intensity, etc.

Ethan Michaels said...

Thanks for the comment Joe. As for defensive win shares, that must be because Jeter played shortstop. It's clear that Youkilis is a better defensive player at his position than Jeter. It would be difficult to argue that Jeter is even an average shortstop in the face of all the evidence that's been saying he's one of the worst shortstops in baseball for years.

Michael Fierman said...

i find it quite interesting how often yankee players are discussed on the ( few) sox blogs i read.

on the yankee blogs i frequent ( and joe can vouch for me on this) sox players are rarely mentioned.

Ethan Michaels said...

There are definitely differences between fans on different sides of the rivalry. It's very different for Red Sox fans because they've been compared up against their division rivals ever since Red Sox fans were kids. If the Yankees were the little brother of the rivalry, and Yankees fans growing up were always told that so and so on the Yankees isn't as good as so and so on the Red Sox, I think they'd think about the rivalry differently. I live in New York, so my classmates, teachers and friends have been comparing their Yankees players to my Red Sox players my entire life.

Now that it's the other way around, and people are saying that so and so on the Yankees isn't as good as so and so on the Red Sox, it's exciting. And for many Red Sox fans it's a long time coming, as many as one or two, or even more decades coming. Not to mention, New York is the largest market in American sports, so their athletes are always talked about the most. Regardless of what the teams records are, Yankees, Giants and Rangers sites are always some of the most read sites in the internet when compared to other team sites in the same sports. What better way to gain recognition for your players than to compare them to trademark New York players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera?

Thanks for the comment Michael. Hopefully this helps you understand the psyche of the typical Red Sox fan. Not to say they all think that way, every one of them is different. I wonder if some of what you're talking about is also do to Yankees fans not necessarily caring about baseball teams other than the Yankees all that much. And why would they? For the younger ones who make up probably the largest chunk of blog readers, the Yankees have been the best team in baseball for the majority of their lives.

If you visit again Michael, I'd like to know what some of your favorite Yankees sites are. I read LoHud pretty frequently, but I haven't found many other great Yankees blogs. Also, if you know of any great blogs for other teams, feel free to share those as well. Have a good one!

Ethan Michaels said...

To simply that, Michael. It's like there was a big brother and a little brother. The little brother has been in the big brother's shadow for decades, then finally the little brother big ups the big brother. The little brother's gonna want to talk about it, and the big brother's going to want to avoid it.

A whole lot of Yankees fans talk about the Red Sox when they beat the Red Sox. I couldn't get them to shut up about the Red Sox after the 2003 ALCS. When the Red Sox do well, however, Yankees don't want to hear the name.

Michael Fierman said...

ethan that was probably the most informed as well as charming answer i could have asked for, so a sincere thank you. after i had written my comment i hoped that i hadn't offended you with my question which was certainly not my intention.

i know what you mean about most fans simply being into their own teams...which is completely understandable. i'm pretty much obsessed by the entire game and i like to know as much as i can about the other teams. particularly the american league and of course the red sox. we have the greatest rivalry in the history of sports and i think it's something for fans to cherish.

as far as the yank blogs i recommend :
well the LoHud is great for up to the minute yankee news. the comments are mostly raving maniacs with a few obsessed regulars. i like to read them but i remain a lurker there.

during the season the two best ones are


the blogger is a really smart and welcoming guy named jason

the other one i like is


but he wont be back on until the season begins. both have a few loyal and friendly regulars who make thoughtful comments
a lot like this place as a matter of fact.

joe , the stat wizard, is really the only regular sox guy who comes over but he is made welcome as would be you.

Royal Rooters said...

It's pretty hard to actually offend me, I try not to take myself so seriously. I'm glad you enjoyed the response, I tried to be as honest and candid as possible. It sounds like we're kindred spirits as far as loving our entire sport, and not just our teams. Although I do have to admit that I don't follow the National League nearly as closely as I follow the American League.

I've found the same thing about the comments at LoHud and I was a little disappointed. Thank you so much for the links though, I'll be sure to check them out!