When Will Middlebrooks usurped Kevin Youkilis last season, he got off to a hot start. He put up a .288/.325/.509 (AVG. /OBP/SLG.) slash-line. This was an upgrade to Youkilis’ .235/.336/.409 line. Oh how the tables have turned! So far Middlebooks has mashed six potatoes, but his line sits at .212/.245/.417. Youkilis, before he got hurt, was at .266/.347/.422.
Last year Middlebrooks struck out 24.5% of the time and his walk rate was a low 4.5% (That’s why his OBP was lower than Youk’s despite hitting fifty points better). With those numbers it would have been difficult to maintain his .288 average this season. I expected his average to drop, but not in this freeeeee, free fallin’ style.
Why has this happened? Simple— Middlebrooks is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone (O-swing %). His rate has gone up from 27.1% last year to 30.2 % this year. If you swing at pitches outside the zone you’re going to have a bad time.
It’s easy to notice this just watching him hit. I’ve seen him multiple times swing at first pitch breaking balls and whiff. He puts himself in a hole right away. Middlebrooks’ lack of discipline is killing him and hurting the Sox lineup. Middlebrooks has said he is going to swing his way out of the slump, he just needs to keep it to pitches inside the zone.
You can’t knock his toughness though. Middlebrooks separated a rib in his collision with David Ross last Tuesday and had been playing through the pain. Since last Tuesday’s collision Middlebrooks has collected five hits, four of them doubles. Perhaps his collision knocked the slump out of him whatever the reason let’s hope he can stay out of it.
courtesy of csnchicago.com
And just like that, The New York Yankees’ season hinges on our old pal Kevin Youkilis.
We already knew The Yanks brought him up to replace A-Rod until he comes back, or if he does (my prediction: he comes back in August ‘cause he misses the spotlight, but is out of shape, and come October Girardi will bench him again…if they make it to October).
Then a spring-training fastball breaks Curtis Granderson’s forearm; he is out for ten weeks. Now all-star first-basemen Mark Texiera will be out until early May with a strained tendon in his right wrist.
The Yankees homered their way to the top of the American League East last season; they will now begin this season without eight of their top ten home run hitters from last year.
If this were your mother’s American League East, these injuries might not be such a big deal. But it’s not. Not only are the Sox hungry and talented, but so are the Bluejays, Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays. These five teams will beat up on each other all year. The Yankees can’t count on their typical June through August dominance. Series sweeps will be rarities. And a sub-five hundred April could be the proverbial Grim Reaper.
In steps Youkilis. A year ago today, some may have thought Youk would be a key factor in the AL East race for years to come, just not in Yankee pinstripes. Right now, Robinson Cano causes the only stomach flips in the Yankee lineup. Jeter will be Jeter, but his effectiveness, in large part, relies on the guys behind him knocking him in. For the Yankees to stay afloat until their all-stars return, Youkilis has to channel his old Red Sox mojo.
But from 2010-2012, Youkilis’ OBP. At Yankee Stadium is a pathetic .302. Granted, that came against rock solid Yankee pitching. But the Rays present their typically stacked rotation, the Sox shouldn’t be too far behind, the Buck Showalter-led Orioles grow tougher every year with him at the helm, and the Jays’ young rotation looks poised to reach the next level.
If Youkilis slumps in April, so will the Yankees. Perhaps he will still be our pal after all.