Commentary

BP Daily: The evolution of Kevin Youkilis

It isn't just about plate discipline, but plate discipline when it matters most

Originally Published: May 5, 2009
By Steven Goldman | Baseball Prospectus

Since the first occurrence of baseball players who learned to specialize in selectivity at the plate, they were singled out as somehow hurting their teams. Though they were getting on base at a high clip, and while it is necessary to have batters on base to score runs, they were seen as somehow cheating their teammates and employers. Roy Cullenbine, a 1940s outfielder who posted a career .408 on-base percentage on an average of 117 walks per 162 games played, was traded four times and waived once in a nine-season major league career because he was perceived to be lazy, preferring to work a walk rather than actually hit. Ted Williams averaged 143 walks per 162 games played, but was virtually accused of cowardice because he apparently preferred to take a pass in the clutch, thereby handing off the RBI opportunities to lesser hitters.

Kevin Youkilis initially received a similar opprobrium for his selective approach at the plate. But ironically, the "Greek God of Walks," as he was inaccurately nicknamed in "Moneyball," has always been a minor deity at best when it comes to taking ball four. Youkilis has always been a patient hitter, but walking has never been a big part of his game, the way it was for true walking gods like Williams and Eddie Yost, the "Walking Man." During his pro career, Youkilis has posted just a single 100-walk season to date, that coming in 2003, a year split between Double-A and Triple-A. His major league high is 91, taken in 2006.

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