Friday, November 30, 2012

I Want Youk to Want Me

Patience was not a virtue exemplified by many Blue Jays hitters in 2012.  Consequently, the team's collective .309 OBP ranked 25th in baseball last season.

Only three of Toronto's regular starters -- Edwin Encarnacion (.384), Jose Bautista (.358), and Brett Lawrie (.324) -- registered on-base percentages above the arbitrary .315 mark.

And no player on the roster embodies Toronto's lacklustre plate approach better than Adam Lind; over the past three seasons, Lind has compiled an OBP of .296.  And as horrifying as that number is, it gets a whole lot worse when we isolate the splits.

Lind's struggles against left-handed pitching are well documented.  Since his astonishing 2009 campaign in which he slugged 35 homeruns with a .932 OPS en route to a Silver Slugger award, Lind has proven himself to be little more than a glorified platoon player.  In the three subsequent seasons -- and brace yourself because this is ugly -- he's posted a slash line of .186/.226/.281 against southpaws in 390 plate appearances.  In case the putrid stench of those numbers has incapacitated your mathematical faculties, that's good for a .507 OPS. 

Since 2010, Lind has struck out in 26.9% of his plate appearances against lefties, compared to 18.5% against righthanders.  And it goes on like this for a while: 
  • 7.4 BB% vs. RHP -- 4.1 BB% vs. LHP;
  • .340 wOBA vs. RHP -- .225 wOBA vs. LHP;
  • .212 ISO vs. RHP -- .096 ISO vs. LHP;
You get the picture.

If only there was a capable, disciplined, goateed right-handed bat available that could split time with Lind whenever a lefty toes the slab.  And a shaved head is preferable.

Given that broad description, the first candidate that comes to mind is Kevin Youkilis.

Blue Jays fans will surely remember Youk from his time with the Boston Red Sox.  In fact, throughout his nine-year career, Youkilis has played more games against the Blue Jays than any other team in baseball.  Over 111 tilts with the Blue Jays, Youkilis knocked 16 homeruns with a .372 OBP and .834 OPS.  While those figures pale slightly in comparison to his career totals -- .384 and .867, respectively -- they're not anything to sneeze at.

Renowned for his impeccable approach and plate discipline, the longtime Fenway favourite earned the moniker "The Greek God of Walks," and it's a nickname that's certainly deserved.  His .413 OBP in 2009 ranked sixth in the bigs, while his .411 mark in 2010 would've put him in a tie for fourth had injuries not prevented him from reaching the requisite 501 plate appearances.

As he's crept closer to his dotage, his numbers have taken a dip, but he still managed a .355 OBP with a  .347 wOBA over the past two seasons.  But since we're really only interested in him as a platoon player, his numbers against lefties are really what we're after.  To put it succinctly: they're good.

Over the past two seasons with the Red/White Sox, Youkilis has worked a tasty .407 OBP with a .935 OPS against lefties.  To get some perspective, Edwin Encarnacion's OPS last year was .941.  Youkilis' .386 OBP against southpaws last year was exactly 70 points higher than his clip against righties.  And of his 19 homeruns in 2012, eight of them came off lefthanders.  Bear in mind, of course, those eight bombs came over 120 at-bats, while his other 11 took him 318 ABs. 

Youkilis is no slouch with the glove, either.  Over his career, he's split time between the corner infield positions, but a platoon with Lind would see him get regular reps at first-base, a far less demanding position.  For his career, he's been worth 7.3 UZR/150 at first base.

Of course, convincing Youk to embrace a platoon role is a significant hurdle, but considering the way he's regressed over the past couple seasons, and his extensive injury history, he might be more receptive to the idea, especially if the Blue Jays are prepared to offer him two guaranteed years with a club option, for kicks.

And while some fans -- presumably the same ones who boo Derek Jeter for breathing -- might be reluctant to embrace a man who spent the prime of his career as a thorn in the side of Toronto pitchers, the notion of Adam Lind in an everyday role is far more objectionable.

And with that, let me conclude by saying, "Take that, Mel Gibson."


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