Being right vs. being useful: a primer

Look, I get that I’ll never convince the average baseball fan that RBI is a junk stat. As a compromise, how about including OBP? Or, if I can get greedy, the slash stats? That tells you why a player did poorly, not just that he did poorly.

Case in point: Kevin Youkilis hit “.235 (103-for-438) with 19 homers and 60 RBI”, which Paul Hoynes calls “not great.” You’re right, it isn’t. But let’s dig a bit, shall we?

His slash stats were .235/.336/.409. What does that tell us? Well, he drew a goodly number of walks (he’s still Kevin Youkilis). His isolated power was .174. That’s not terrific or ideal, by any means, but it’s not terrible either. He’s a pretty good defensive 3B, so that adds some useful context.

Let’s take it to the next level, though. I’m only going to add one more stat. BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play). This year, it was .268.

The lowest of his entire career.

Now, there are two possible explanations for Youkilis this year. 1) He’s hit the wall at 33. He’ll never be as good as he was ever again; this is the new norm. 2) He was really unlucky this year.

If he splits the difference between 2011 and 2012, as I suspect he will, Kevin Youkilis goes from “average major leaguer” to “useful player.” He’ll almost certainly lose cash in free agency, which means I, for one, would be delighted to see the Indians pick him up.


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