Ahead of tonight’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, the Boston Red Sox activated Kevin Youkilis from the Disabled List and put him directly into the lineup, batting fifth. That’s kind of funny because rookie Will Middlebrooks is also in the lineup, batting behind Youkilis and playing the newly healthy third baseman’s regular position.

I guess you could just play Youkilis at first base since he’s actually logged 2,000 more innings at that position than he has across the diamond at the other corner infield spot, but then what do you do with Adrian Gonzalez hitting in front of him? It’s quite simple for Bobby Valentine: you play him in right field.

The Pinata Killer logged fourteen innings there during his team’s series with the Phillies in Philadelphia this weekend. That’s one more inning than all of last year when he was previously called on to play in right as a means of getting David Ortiz’s bat into the lineup against interleague opponents. Before that, he played eight innings as a right fielder at the tail end of the 2005 season for the Texas Rangers.

Over his extensive history with that position, he’s had seven total chances, once committing a fielding error.

While it might make sense to sacrifice some defense for the sake of getting Ortiz in the lineup, the same likely doesn’t hold true for the 23 year old Middlebrooks … at least not yet. In a vacuum, the move looks either ridiculous or the type of stuff that leads to assumptions of blatant trade bait showcasing.

However, this is the Boston Red Sox we’re discussing, a team that has had such terrible luck with the health of their outfielders, they’ve resorted to promoting Scott Podsednik to the big league club – a move that is as unlikely to improve their talent level as it is to improve their injury aversion record. From this vantage point, maybe Gonzalez isn’t such a bad option to play the open corner outfield position.

Their lineup tonight not only gives the team their most potent offense, but also allows Youkilis and his rumoured to be trade block status to be seen by other clubs, all while ensuring that young Middlebrooks gets his regular at bats. Ideal? No, but not as bad as it could be.

Aside: Jack Moore, one of my favourites from the FanGraphs crew, recently wrote about Youkilis and the value that he might bring back in a trade:

Beyond the $12 million this season, the Red Sox also hold an extremely attractive $13 million club option with just a $1 million buyout. With a low-risk shot at holding Youkilis for two years, Boston could conceivably bring in pieces for both the present and future. Specifically, the Sox could use another corner outfielder or any sort of useful pitching arm.

I’m not so sure I see that option for 2013 as being as attractive as Mr. Moore does. Granted, a 126 wRC+ in 2011 would only be disappointing to an elite player, I find this trend alarming, and I suspect that front offices around baseball might feel similarly:

Comments (5)

  1. Is your sister cute, Parkes?

  2. I would imagine that they lose less defensive value with A-Gon at 1B, Youk at 3B, and Middlebrooks in OF? Given that A-Gon is one of the better defensive 1B, and corner OF is usually where teams stick corpses who can’t play defense.

    • That’s a good point. Maybe some circumstantial evidence for Middlebrooks remaining the team’s 3B for the rest of the season, even while they try to move Youkilis.

    • All depends on how well you think Adrian will play the outfield and how high you are on Middlebrooks sustaining his current performance.

      I ran a quick WAR calculation using the ZIPS rest-of-season projections based on the two scenarios (A-Gon 1B – Youk 3B – Podsednik RF and A-Gon RF – Youk 1B – Middlebrooks 3B) and the results are as follows:

      A-Gon 1B – Youk 3B – Podsednik RF:
      WAR TOTAL: 8.0 over a full season

      A-Gon RF – Youk 1B – Middlebrooks 3B:
      WAR TOTAL: 7.8 over a full season – Assumes A-Gon is a well below average RF (-9 UZR over a full season – in the Berkman/Cust/Abreu range)
      WAR TOTAL: 8.5 over a full season – Assuming A-Gon is a league average RF.

      The second scenario also uses the .309 ZIPS projected wOBA for Middlebrooks, so if you assume he’ll hit closer to this current level than that the second scenario grabs some more WAR (for example if he sustains his current performance you can add 3.8 WAR over the course of a full season to the second scenario.

      Basically, when using realistic assumptions about Gonzalez’s ability in RF and Middlebrooks potential to sustain his current level of play the two options are likely within a 0.5-1.5 wins over a 700 PA season. Given that a quarter of the year is already done, even if you had to run one of these two lineups out every game for the rest of the year it wouldn’t be likely to make more than a 1 win difference no matter how you slice it. While 1 win can be a big difference for a team like the Red Sox, the added value of showcasing Youk and keeping Middlebrooks’ bat in the lineup probably makes the second scenario preferable.

  3. The Pinata Killer gains life everyday!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *