Kevin Youkilis Part 2 (from the Minors to the Red Sox)

“There were times, it seemed, when the only one who believed [Kevin] Youkilis was a ballplayer was Youkilis himself,” wrote Chaz Scoggins of the Lowell Sun.

Those times are long gone. Indeed, as Theo Epstein pointed out, “statistically, if you consider 2008 and 2009, you could make the case there has been no better player [than Kevin Youkilis] in the league.”

In his best-selling book Moneyball, Michael M. Lewis told the story, of how analyzing baseball statistics rather than relying on traditional measures of performance–such as, a beautiful swing, strong arm, or speed–predicted more accurately the value of a palyer’s contribution to a team.  For example, on-base percentage (including walks) and total bases are more reliable than  a player’s batting average at predicting wins.  Such insights would have dramatic implications for how amateur players are drafted (see videos below).  Players who would have been overlooked in previous generations suddenly seemed more promising when analyzed using those new methods.  Youkilis was such a player.

“Youkilis was a fat third baseman who couldn’t run, throw, or field.”  Still, Paul DePodesta (quoted in Moneyball) argued that [t]he scouts ought to go have a look” at him.  Why?  Because the boy could get on base. Michael Lewis writes:

Inded, three months into his professional career, Youkilis had “the second highest on-base percentage in all of professional baseball, after Barry Bonds. To Paul, he’d become Euclis: the Greek god of walks.)

On May 15, 2004, Youkilis made his MLB debut. Youk was called up from AAA (just ten months from his last AA game), because Bill Mueller (the Red Sox third baseman) was put on the DL.

“It’s been great, a lot of fun,” Youkilis would say after his first start in the bigs. “The part of the situation that is not good is Bill [Mueller]. He is such a great guy and a huge part of this team.”

Youk expected to be in Boston only a fortnight but remained in Boston for six additional weeks because Bill underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. In 11 games, he hit .278 with a on-base percentage of .413. His early success gave him confidence: “I know I’m going to be playing,” Youkilis told reporters matter-of-factly. In April, however, Youkilis found himself on the way back down to Pawtucket, because the team needed to activate Curt Schilling.

Ben Jacobs of The Hard Ball Times asked Youkilis, “Do you see yourself as the future starting third baseman for the Red Sox?”

I hope. They don’t know ever. A big-market team, you never know what’s going to happen. For me, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Hopefully, that’s what’s going to happen some day, but for me, I’ve just got to go out and do what I’ve got to do to get myself better and get myself ready to help that team up there.

That August Bill Mueller was having back spasms in batting practice, so Kevin was called up again.    He was in Pawtucket’s clubhouse getting dressed for a game. Without changing out of the same white pants that he wore for the Pawtucket home games, he packed his car, sped to Boston, dashed  into the Red Sox clubhouse, threw on his jersey and cleats, and went out to take his place on third (not unlike Doug Mirabelli’s famous return to Boston).

The commuting was not over.  Kevin  would return to Pawtucket and play 43 more games in AAA.  Youkilis was asked by Ben Jacobs, “Having been a part of everything that went on last year for the Red Sox, how difficult is it being back in the minor leagues?”  Youk responded:

It’s difficult. There’s one guy that had to go down, go on waivers or whatever, and I was the only one that had options. You never want it to happen, but it happened and now I’ve got to deal with it.

Of course, even in the minors Kevin was gaining fame among baseball fans given his role in Moneyball.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss Kevin’s time as a full-time member of the Red Sox.

Watch the 60 minutes video after the jump.

* * *

* * *

Part 1 is here

Kevin Youkilis “Get Back” Video is here

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  • Comments (2)
  1. Great post! My question, Ian, is where did Youk develop his unorthodox batting style? Do you know?

    • Hu Z.
    • March 19th, 2010

    Best articles on Youk I’ve seen! Keep up the great work, Ian! HZ

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