Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Greek God of...Limping?

Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
Advanced metrics. At times, they can be a tough tool to rely on--especially when it comes to measuring a fielder's effectiveness. Currently, the best--or at least most widely used system is Fangraph's Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).

I won't get into how it's calculated--Fangraphs itself does a much better job than I can pretend to here for those interested--and admittedly it has its flaws like any method of measuring a player's effectiveness, but over a period of a few seasons (preferably at least three) it can be more than a decent indicator of a player's worth in the field.

Which is why it's so tough to get a bead on Kevin Youkilis' effectiveness as a thirdbaseman. 

I don't want to think this thing to death, but after seeing David Ortiz coming back for another season following yesterday's arbitration settlement, it seems to me that this will be Papi's final year in Boston regardless of how he performs in 2012 (historically, hitters just can't hack it at age 37 and beyond without steroids). Especially with Youkilis' injury trouble over the past few years and Will Middlebrooks, who by all accounts looks like a spectacular defender, looming on the horizon, it seems as if Youk is primed to be the DH in 2013.

That is, if he re-signs after this season (his 4-year, $40 million dollar contract is up at the end of the year.) But contract talks and injuries aside, we're definitely in for another season of Youkilis at third for better or worse. 

So how to the numbers bear out?

Back to that pesky UZR. The 32-year old came in a below league average rating of -2.3, and -3.7 when prorated over 150 games last season. Compare that to league leaders Adrian Beltre (AL-12.3) and Placido Polanco (NL-14.0), and you can see that Youkilis' numbers don't exactly inspire confidence.

I can hear all of you screaming "But he was injured!"

Okay, okay, calm down. You're right. But can it safely be argued that he'll be healthy enough to get in a full season at the hot corner in 2012, which by the way, would only be his second at the position in his career? Probably not. 

The problem comes in that he doesn't really have the games played at third to effectively measure his performance over a three year period. He racked up 948.2 innings at the position in 2011, his next highest total coming in 2004--his rookie-season, in which he rated a whopping 7.0. 2009 saw him play 494.1 innings with another dismal -1.4 UZR rating. 

Will all of this add up to a new thirdbaseman for Boston in 2013? Possibly. My guess is that he will still be a valuable enough hitter to warrant keeping around at DH, despite his poor showing last year. Hopefully he stays injury free and earns himself an extension.

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