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Indians Indians Archive Indians Will Be Glad They Passed On Youkilis
Written by Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore

2012 06 youkilis dodgeThe Cleveland Indians dodged a major bullet over the weekend when general manager Chris Antonetti didn’t get suckered into making a trade for a washed-up Kevin Youkilis.

The Red Sox sent Youkilis, currently batting .233 on the season, to the Chicago White Sox for right-handed reliever Zach Stewart and utilityman Brent Lillibridge.

Somehow Indians manager Manny Acta kept a straight face when asked about the deal.

“Youkilis is going to make Chicago a better team,” Acta told The Plain Dealer. “He’s a very good hitter. He’s been there, done that. He adds to them. Obviously, it doesn’t get any easier for us.”

Many fans and media members believed the Tribe should pursue Youkilis because he bats from the right side and would have helped to balance out the Indians primarily left-handed hitting lineup, one that has struggled against left-handed pitching this year. (And, afterall, if you have heard of a particular player then they must be good, right?)

On the season, the Tribe 32-19 in game started by a right-handed pitcher (hitting .266), but just 5-15 in games started by left-handers (.215). But Acta is taking a practical approach to the problem.

“We have a long way to go,” he told The Beacon Journal. “It’s only June. I’d be really worried if we struggled against right-handers. We can live with the way we’re put together because the majority of starters are right-handed, our park is better suited to left-handed hitters and there aren’t that many left-handed starters in our division.”

If the Indians could find a way to improve their numbers just a little bit against lefties, things would be a lot easier for them in the division race – which is why many fans and media types were erroneously enamored by the thought of Youkilis coming to town. But taking a look at the numbers reveals that the notion that Youkilis would have been an upgrade for the Tribe does not hold water.

Since last year’s All-Star break, Youkilis has been a .217 hitter. His numbers away from Fenway Park are even worse (hard to believe, we know) as last year he hit .191 on the road with a .666 OPS. He’s followed that up this year with the same .191 road average while seeing his OPS slip to .576.

But wait, there’s more!

Against the American League Central Division this year (only the division the Indians are trying to win), Youkilis is batting .217 with two home runs and five RBI. That’s actually an “improvement” over last season, when he batted .183 against the Central Division, with two home runs and eight RBI.

This is the improvement the Indians need?

There is also the little matter of where the Tribe would have played Youkilis if they had swung a deal. He’s not an outfielder, so he wouldn’t have solved the hole in left field, although after a rough May (.171 average with a .517 OPS) Johnny Damon has been on a small uptick in June, batting .255 with a .766 OPS (our big fear with Damon, however, is that he will hit just enough so that the Indians will not make a move, but not enough to actually make a difference).

If the Indians had put Youkilis at third they would have just been taking at bats away from Lonnie Chisenhall, which would serve no point, especially since Chisenhall’s numbers in June (.264 average with a .731 OPS) are better than Youkilis’ numbers for this month (.200 average, .630 OPS).

What about first base? Well, since May 1, Casey Kotchman has hit .267 with four homers and 23 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense. Again, how would that have helped the Tribe?

The Indians clearly have some problems on offense as since June 9, a span of 14 games, the Tribe has scored three or fewer runs nine times and their run differential (-42) is the second worst in the American League.

The starting pitching has been inconsistent as Derek Lowe’s ERA as climbed month by month, from 2.27 in April to 4.30 in May to 6.44 in June with one more start coming before the calendar flips to July; and while Ubaldo Jimenez has pitched well in June (2-1 with a .2.05 ERA) there’s no guarantee that he doesn’t have another month like May (3-3 with a 6.75 ERA) in him; the newly-demoted Jeanmar Gomez was 1-3 with a 7.20 ERA in June; middle relief is a mess with Tony Sipp, Esmil Rogers, Nick Hagadone (12 earned runs in his last 12.1 innings of work) and Jeremy Accado giving fans agita every time they take the mound; and who knows when or if the offense will wake up.

Having said all that, the Indians are only a half-game behind the White Sox for the division lead. The Youkilis trade may make sense for Chicago, because if they can get any production out of him it will be an improvement over what they had prior to the trade (White Sox third basemen have combined this year to hit .167 with one home run, and they currently are last in the majors in home runs, batting average, OBP, slugging, RBI and extra-base hits) But all the issues that we outlined still apply to Youkilis, whether he’s hitting at Progressive Field (where he has batted just .135 over the past three seasons) or U.S. Cellular Field (.160 average of the same timeframe).

The Tribe needs to do something if they want to stay in the division race but they have to be very careful if they are going to make a trade. More than likely, the Tribe can probably only make one trade a year to try and improve the team, so Antonetti needs to be as sure as he can be that any player the team picks up will provide a true impact to the won-loss record.

And, once you really look at the numbers, there’s little doubt that Youkilis would not have been that player (and even better, he’s now the White Sox problem).

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