FanPost

Building A Batting Order With Kevin Youkilis

There are two major philosophies to building a batting order. First, there is the classic version where the lead off guy is a speed demon, the second guy is a contact hitter, third is your second best hitter, fourth is the best hitter, fifth is the next best hitter, seven and eight are mediocre, and ninth is hopefully fast. In the AL anyways. So by the numbers, you get: 3, 4, 2, 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Second, there is Tom Tango's saber-friendly method from The Book. The key is for your best man to bat second, regardless. The lead off guy is your best guy at getting on base, and then you order the rest of the line up by talent with the exception of the third and fourth slot, which is reserved for power hitters. This method gives you: 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9.

For the White Sox, it has been advantageous to follow a more classical approach, and I have thoughts as to why, but adding Kevin Youkilis to the fray will make things very interesting.

THE CURRENT LINEUP

1

Alejandro De Aza

2

Gordon Beckham

3

Adam Dunn

4

Paul Konerko

5

Alex Rios

6

A.J. Pierzynski

7

Dayan Viciedo

8

Alexei Ramirez

9

Orlando Hudson

Three spots that I have agreed with are slots 1, 3 and 4. Alejandro De Aza is still the best threat on the base pads. His .368 OBP is stellar - and second best on the team for at least 20 games played - so there is no reason to remove him from hitting lead off. The third and fourth slots have belonged to Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko all season. Paulie is a hits machine and has a crazy high .417 OBP and .342 BA, so I am tempted to slot him at third in the order, but the beauty of Adam Dunn is two fold: his ability to put the ball deep and move the runners (hopeful to homeplate), and his ability to draw a walk and get into the pitcher's head. If Youkilis is the Greek God of Walks, then Dunn is surely immortal. Dunn's only Achilles' heel is a dip in OBP vs LHP.

The big debate is for the second slot. When Ventura put Gordon Beckham in behind De Aza, it was the best move of his young managerial career. Putting Gordon in front of Dunn and Konerko was an ego booster, and drew talent out of the shell that is the former heralded 8th overall pick. His O-Swing% is still too high - chasing 32.6% of pitches outside the zone - and his contact rates have not changed, but his OBP is climbing and he is striking out less overall. Pure speculation, but to remove the kid might drop his confidence again.

To be fair, Gordon has been plagued by the luck dragon and bit by a .267 BABIP, so his .249 batting average and mediocre OBP should rise. His splits are pretty neutral as well. Gordon makes contact against RHP very well, and he walks like a major league player against LHP. Either way, his OBP and his wOBA are near .300. That's good for Beckham, but not great for the second hitter in the lineup.

Behind Konerko are AJ Pierzynski, Alex Rios, and Dayan Viciedo. Each leads the other in terms of OBP and OPS, so the order is fitting - unless the Sox are facing a lefty, in which case Viciedo should jump ahead of AJ and Alex thanks to Tank's .405 wOBP and .947 OPS split. Alexei Ramirez can... uh... stay at the end. (.230 BA, .252 OBP vs RHP, .262 BA, .297 OBP vs LHP)

Adding Youkilis

So lets talk about Kevin Youkilis. A healthy Youk has a ZIPS projection of batting .262 with a .364 OBP (and to answer the Greek God of Walks question, an 11% walk rate. That's double what we expect from Beckham, and about half of what we expect from Dunn). The Cell Block has been very kind to Youkilis in his career so we can expect him to mash and get on base at a higher rate than that current ZIPS projection (which uses Fenway as his home field). Add in the optimism of the excellent training staff on the South Side and the fabled "change of scenery" boost and we have ourselves a more than adequate third baseman.

Additionally, a healthy Youk has great career splits. Against RHP he carries a .282 average, .375 OBP and .854 OPS. Against LHP, .299 BA, .419 OBP and .928 OPS. Another White Sox player who can destroy lefty pitching. Youkilis also tends to perform better when he has men on base or in scoring position, a near .100 jump in his batting average and his OBP.

So let's rewind. Where does Beckham rank against the lineup? If we consider his ceiling a .325 OBP, the addition of Youkilis makes it high time he drops in the batting order. But how far should he fall? Beckham has no career boost in his plate production when hitters are in front of him. But you know who has? Alexei! Splits give him about a .335 OBP with Sox on the sacks. His slash line is terrible, but he looks fantastic with runners on. Don't ask me why, but his batting average with no one on base is .174, and with runners on or in scoring position, has been at worst .330. In other words, put Alexei in front of Gordon.

So let's get to the lineups using the classical and sabermetric approaches:

CLASSICAL APPROACH (3, 4, 2, 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

vRHP

vLHP

1

Alejandro De Aza

Alejandro De Aza

2

Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis

3

Adam Dunn

Adam Dunn

4

Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko

5

A.J. Pierzynski

Dayan Viciedo

6

Alex Rios

A.J. Pierzynski

7

Dayan Viciedo

Alex Rios

8

Alexei Ramirez

Alexei Ramirez

9

Gordon Beckham

Gordon Beckham

In the classical approach, I rank De Aza as more valuable than Youk for his speed on the basepads and contact rates. Youk can hit bombs and at least move the runners, but he's no speed demon.

SABERMETRIC APPROACH (1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9)

vRHP

vLHP

1

Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko

2

Adam Dunn

Kevin Youkilis

3

Alejandro De Aza

Alejandro De Aza

4

A.J. Pierzynski

Dayan Viciedo

5

Kevin Youkilis

Adam Dunn

6

Alex Rios

A.J. Pierzynski

7

Dayan Viciedo

Alex Rios

8

Alexei Ramirez

Alexei Ramirez

9

Gordon Beckham

Gordon Beckham

The addition of Youkilis gives the Sox lineup a much needed boost of energy, but the Classical approach may not reflect the true value of adding the former all star. We have splits to consider! And note, the power hitter/OBP guys are now Dunn and Youk.

Konerko is still the best hitter, but it is worth mentioning that his contact rates profile more like a 2-hole hitter, even if his body is the frame of a clean-up guy. Additionally, taking De Aza out of leadoff takes away a lot of speed on the bases. So maybe the sabermetric argument is not best either. If we take the best of both worlds, we get a lineup like this:

MIXTURE (4, 1, 2, 5, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9)

vRHP

vLHP

1

Alejandro De Aza

Alejandro De Aza

2

Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko

3

Adam Dunn

Kevin Youkilis

4

A.J. Pierzynski

Dayan Viciedo

5

Kevin Youkilis

Adam Dunn

6

Alex Rios

A.J. Pierzynski

7

Dayan Viciedo

Alex Rios

8

Alexei Ramirez

Alexei Ramirez

9

Gordon Beckham

Gordon Beckham

This approach gives consideration to keeping the speedy De Aza in front, adjusting for righty/lefty splits, and then gives the highest number of plate appearances to the best hitters. Konerko and his aching wrist may never end up hitting second under Ventura, but I sure as hell would rather give him an extra plate appearance than anyone else on the team.

What are your thoughts? Will Ventura stick to the classical approach? Do you think Konerko or Youkilis profile as a No. 2 hitter? Should Adam Dunn be dropped in the lineup based on pitching splits? Is Gordon Beckham more valuable than ninth in the lineup? Will he ever be as good as Rickie Weeks?

I am expecting Ventura to stick to the classical approach with Youkilis batting second and Beckham hitting last, but I'd love to know what you guys came up with.

SouthSideSox is a community driven site. As such, users are able to express their thoughts and opinions in a FanPost, such as this one, which represents the views of this particular fan, but not necessarily the entire community or SouthSideSox editors.

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