Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kevin Youkilis vs. David Adams

When it comes to the question of what position the Yankees should put Kevin Youkilis at upon his return, it's pretty clear. With Mark Teixeira at 1B (more on Tex and 1B here), Youk's only position is 3B. Kevin has played 134 innings in left field, but that was back in 2006. Since that time he only has 22.2 innings in the outfield (8.2 innings in RF in 2008).

"I do this at the hot corner, buddy!"

Most Yankee fans have come to really like David Adams. David's move to the Majors hasn't seemed a tough one at all, as many have commented on the fact that he doesn't seem overwhelmed in the least. So what can be done? Well, one idea in order to get Adams at bats is to use Youkilis as the designated hitter some times, opening up 3B for David. That makes sense since Travis Hafner is not that good against lefties, whereas Youkilis has hit them well. While Hafner has been getting on base at a good clip against left-handed pitching (.382 OBP), and hitting for some power (.502 SLG), his problem in that area is that he doesn't "hit" left-handers much at all (.222 batting average). Then there's Youk, who has hit .293/.413/.502 against LHP in his career, including .275/.386/.492 last season. So it looks as though Kevin should be the DH against lefites, while Hafner sits, thus giving Adams the start at third.

Before we pencil Adams into that spot, though, I have to ask... is he so good that the team should really try to get him more at bats in MLB?

So far this season David Adams has hit .265/.280/.449 (.314 wOBA). Mind you, 50 plate appearances is hardly a large sample size, but never-the-less those numbers don't scream "rookie of the year" either. Here are a few other statistics that I like to look at...

Line Driver Percentage - 15% That's not horrible, but a little low (the league average is 21%)
Batting Average on Balls in Play - .289 Although saying a player is lucky or unlucky based on his BABIP alone is not right to do, that number doesn't make me look deeper to see if Adams has simply run into bad luck.
Home Run Percentage - 4% (1.6% in minors) Looking at the number in the minors, I don't think Adams is going to keep up that 4%.
Walk Percentage - 0% (10.3% in minors) This is awful. Adams has yet to take a walk, and has actually only seen 6 three ball counts out of 50 plate appearances (Brennan Boesch, who has also had 50 PA, has seen 9 such counts).
Strikeout Percentage - 18% (16% in minors) That number is pretty good, as the league average SO% is 20%. Seeing that lower minor league strikeout rate, I think there's a chance he could keep this up.

To sum things up here, along with not taking any walks, Adams' only real issue is that he hasn't hit right-handed pitchers (.194/.216/.389). David is crushing lefties to the tune of .462/.462/.616, but the problem with that is the Yankees have only faced lefties in 33% of their total plate appearances.

"Are we facing a lefty today?"

On the other side of the coin, Kevin Youkilis is hitting .266/.347/.422 (.336 wOBA) so far in 2013. Over the last three years, Youk has hit .264/.372/.472, which tells me the Youkilis we've seen when healthy this season is pretty close to what we can expect from here on out. But what about his other numbers?

Line Driver Percentage - 20% (21% career) Youkilis has not only hit more balls hard this year, but throughout his career. And what we've seen so far in 2013 is normal.
Batting Average on Balls in Play - .341 (.322 career). Perhaps Youk has been a little lucky this season, but not enough to suggest a big regression.
Home Run Percentage - 2.8% (3.4% career) Kevin is actually hitting fewer home runs than normal. Now, I don't mean to imply that it's by a lot, but by year's end I think he'll hit more bombs than Adams would for sure.
Walk Percentage - 5.6% (12.2% career) Need I remind you of Youk's nickname? You know, the "Greek God of Walks"? Not only will Youkilis reach base more often thanks to bases on balls than David, but it's not by just a few.
Strikeout Percentage - 25% (18.6% career) It's not hard to see Youkilis' strikeout rate come down a bit. I don't see it getting down to the 18% that Adams currently sits at, but in the end those two will be fairly close.

In all, Kevin Youkilis is clearly the better hitter, and should absolutely not lose at bats to David Adams. But due to those lefty/righty splits, I can see Adams in every lineup against lefty starters. Not only that, but he could be a good bat off the bench in case Girardi needs someone to face a lefty reliever. My real qualm with the idea of Adams only playing part time is in regards to his development. Is starting around 25% of games, and getting another pinch-hit at bat here or there worth it? Some people feel that a player's development isn't necessarily stunted due to not playing every day, meaning that they can learn quite a bit just by observing games. Talking with MLB veterans and coaches, and seeing MLB pitchers up close, is certainly a big help. And allow me to ask another question... What's more valuable? 600 AAA plate appearances, or 300 MLB plate appearances?

Those 300 MLB plate appearances I just mentioned is not a number I grabbed out of thin air. You see, David Adams already has 163 PA this season. As a regular vs. lefty starters, Adams will get around 110 more plate appearances, based on 110 more games and around 25% of them against lefty starters. And at that point he could still get a few more plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, for around 300 total. And that's assuming Youkilis and Hafner don't miss any more time this season, which in and of itself is quite a stretch.

"Mr. Hafner, and Mr. Youkilis, have put my kids through college... both undergraduate and graduate!"

So while I'm okay with David Adams being sent to the minors to play everyday, I would be perfectly happy if these were the regular lineups for the Yankees until Granderson, Jeter, and Cervelli return...

vs. RHP
C- Stewart/Romine
SS-Nix (Nunez can get back in there when he returns)

vs. LHP
C- Stewart/Romine
SS-Nix (again... Nunez can get back in there when he returns)

By the way, going these ways not only strengthens the Yankees' lineups, but also strengthens their bench due to Overbay and Adams being there in games started by a righty, while Overbay and Hafner will be there in games started by a lefty.

"That's great, but we still have 5 more games in NL parks, meaning no DHs then." - Girardi
"Dammit, Joe, quit your bitchin'." - Cashman

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)