Wins above replacement player: who's counting? | Bleader

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wins above replacement player: who's counting?

Posted By on 07.06.12 at 11:12 AM

Kevin Youkilis wins the game for the White Sox on July 4.
  • Paul Boucher
  • Kevin Youkilis wins the game for the White Sox on July 4
When Kevin Youkilis was traded to the White Sox, ten games ago, some suggested he was done. At very best, Baseball Prospectus had projected him as being worth four wins above the average replacement player (WARP) for the 2012 season. Even replacing the epitome of a replacement player in Orlando Hudson at third base for the Sox, at almost the halfway point of the season he was worth about two wins the rest of the way.

Well, Youkilis has provided the game-winning hit the last two games—that's two wins right there—and he played a key role in the Sox slaughter of the Texas Rangers the game before that, and he helped preserve a win in a pitchers' duel before that with a nice inning-ending play on a dribbler down the third-base line.

That's four wins, and not coincidentally the Sox are 7-3—four games above .500—since he joined them.

That's the thing about baseball statistical analysis. A guy is projected at a certain level and he's going to play at that level and the law of averages is going to even out in the end. Yet sometimes a guy just lands in the right spot, and it's electric. It alters everything around him. Think of manager Tony LaRussa's decision to move Carlton Fisk up to the second spot in the order in 1983. Yes, Fisk had a good year that season, but that shift totally altered the team (until the playoffs against the Baltimore Orioles).

Youkilis played a key role in each game of the Sox sweep of the Texas Rangers—a grudge match in defense of A.J. Pierzynski, after Texas manager Ron Washington snubbed A.J. and then said he felt bad about it in selecting the last American League players for next week's All-Star Game.

Youkilis went three-for-six with a homer and four runs batted in the 19-2 series opener Tuesday. Then he won Wednesday's game in the tenth inning when, with a runner in scoring position, he fell behind in the count 0-2, then fouled pitches off and worked the count until he got a pitch he could hit for a single to win the game. Thursday he scored both of the team's runs in a 2-1 victory for Jose Quintana and provided the eventual game winner with a homer.

Is Youkilis going to lie down for the rest of the season now that he's already provided the Sox with their expected allotment of wins? No—more and more, with the Sox in first, it looks as if he could be the catalyst in a division-winning campaign. For all baseball's statistical analysis, sometimes it remains a game of intangibles.

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