So, Kevin Youkilis didn't make the impact that everybody thought he would. For the fourth time in six games, the White Sox scored in binary -- zero or one. This time, it was a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
It's been a rough month for White Sox hitters, who came into the game with the third-worst OBP (.309) and OPS (.685) in June, and those numbers will drop after just eight of 35 White Sox reached base.
The month has also illustrated how thin the White Sox are. The 3-4 combo of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko has cooled off, and with Dayan Viciedo overswinging and failing to cover anything in the top half of the strike zone, the Sox are very short on dynamic hitters.
Dunn has been particularly problematic. He struck out four times against Minnesota, extending his homerless streak to eight games. That he's gone eight games without going deep isn't normally a big deal, but it is when he lives and dies by three true outcomes. He's secretly replaced his homers with strikeouts, and everybody can tell the difference. Here's what he's done over his last eight games and 30 plate appearances: 3-for-32, eight walks, 19 strikeouts.
(As @Royda pointed out to me, the day the strikeout binge started was also the day he first posted on Twitter.)
Worse, he's 1-for-16 with 10 strikeouts when men are on base. It's those kind of ruts that make his strikeout total more glaring. He's on pace for 264 strikeouts this season, which is ridiculous (Mark Reynolds holds the single-season record with 223). That's a whole lot of nothing, and it's in the center of the best part of the Sox lineup.
The good news is that Youkilis gives the Sox an opportunity to move Dunn back, if Robin Ventura is so inclined. It seems a little unfair to demote Gordon Beckham to the ninth spot (and it might give him flashbacks) when the Sox need to throw their productive hitters at opposing pitching as often as possible.
Maybe making that significant of a change is premature, but if Dunn doesn't turn it around by the end of the month, conversations should be had. It's refreshing to see the front office jettison unproductive bench players and seek solutions from the outside, and that's a major turnaround from last year. But as Kenny Williams runs out of ways to upgrade the team, the burden of optimizing turns to Ventura. We don't yet know how adept he is at crisis control, and given the up-for-grabs nature of the AL Central and the Sox's lack of depth, it could make or break the season.
Even though it's inevitable that "Youk" will be the shorthand, I kinda wish Gordon Beckham's inadvertent frenzy-stirring tweet a day before the trade would become a running joke:
Yolk!!— Gordon Beckham (@gordonbeckham) June 23, 2012
I'll try to keep it going, at least until I get bored with it.
Otherwise, there wasn't too much that came out of Youkilis' introduction to the Chicago media. That's to be expected when he has a clear place to play and just about everybody inside and outside of the White Sox organization thinks it's a great move.
So we're left with a couple of retrospectives on Youkilis' Boston career. One's from Joe Posnanski:
Youkilis was not the kind of player who impressed anybody. This was true from the start. Out of high school in Cincinnati, he would say, two schools were willing to give him a chance: Butler and the hometown University of Cincinnati. UC was a terrible team at the time, and Youk recruited the school as much as the school recruited him (his hero Sandy Koufax went to UC and so did his dad). Youkilis couldn’t run, didn’t seem to have great power, wasn’t much of a fielder, he didn’t have a classic baseball body (to say the least) and he had this funky-looking crouch and swing that suggested uncertainty about the purpose of hitting. But people just did not understand that Youk had a plan. And he did not make outs.
But I really liked this description of Youkilis' physical ... presence ... by Michael Schur (Ken Tremendous) at Grantland:
Kevin Youkilis is one of the most oddly shaped human beings in professional athletics. His torso is giant and cylindrical — he looks like a cartoon poor person wearing a barrel. He is completely bald — like, aggressively bald, like he hates hair — except for a fiery red goatee bush that tumbles out of his face like Play-Doh from a fun factory. When he hits, he stands with his feet so close together the ump could tip him over with one quick index-finger jab to the sternum — an action that must have been tempting for many umps over the years — and as he raises the bat above his head and aims the barrel back toward the pitcher in a manner any Little League coach would surely curtail ("No, Kevin, not like that, that's all wrong … just … is your dad here? I need to talk to him"), his hands are a foot apart on the handle of the bat, and he then slowly slides them toward each other as the pitcher moves through his delivery. It's f***ing insane. ("Kevin? Buddy? Hands together, buddy. See? Like this? … Is your dad here?") From this stevedore's frame, alopecic head, and just completely goofy stance came a truly elite ballplayer. Who is also kind of a dick.