Fixing Youkilis' Hitting Mechanics

It's still hard to believe that he's a Yankee, but Kevin Youkilis is now our problem. Not that he's a bad player, but before 2012, Youkilis was one of the best third baseman in the game. His regression in 2012, his age 33 year, isn't something to take lightly. Teams recognized that, which is why the three time allstar only received a one-year $12 million deal from the Yankees. In 2010, he posted a 159 wRC+, his best offensive season in his career, however not far off from his previous two years. The regression began in 2011, when he plated just a 126 wRC+. In 2012, Youkilis was barely an above average hitter, posting a 102 wRC+, and a .235/.336/.409 slash. Though there is some indication that he was unlucky, his platoon splits over the last two seasons have been tremendous. Youkilis hit just .220/.316/.377 against righties, an 89 wRC+, in 2012.

In Dan Martin's Kevin Long article last weekend, the third baseman's stance came into question. We learned that the hitting coach has already visited Youkilis in California, and that work had begun on fixing issues.

“We looked at old film and compared it to 2012,” Long said. “We saw some considerable differences, mainly in his stance and it looked like the adjustments had an impact. ... I think we can get him back to being an all-star caliber player.”

After watching an extensive number of at bats, I pulled three hits from 2012, 2010, and 2009.

I recommend you click the image and take a look at the larger version. It's very difficult to see the "considerable differences" that Long found, but I believe it's in his stance as he begins to make his stride. As he hunches over, he pulls his bat into position, but in 2012, there is a slight difference. In 2010 and 2009, Youkilis maintains a very balanced stance and keeps his head in line with his feet until he swings, and when he goes to swing, he just barely brings his hands further out than his head. In 2012, not only is his head further hunched over, his hands extend further. The pitches above are all in similar locations, and looking back at other 2012 at bats, he consistently extended his hands.

I thought this difference might have an impact on pitches inside, and indeed, right handed pitchers killed him on the inside pitches. On pitches inside from righties, Youkilis went 13 for 84 (a .155 batting average). Compare that to 2010, where he went 24 for 75 on the same set of pitches (.320 batting average), and in 2009 he went 38 for 93 (a .409 batting average). If you take a look at this foul rates on inside pitches from righties in 2012, you'll also see that he had a difficult time squaring these pitches up.

Long uses a short bat exercise for right handed hitters who can't get around inside pitches, which he showcased on MLB Network's Diamond Demo. If this is indeed the issue, Youkilis is in very good hands with his new batting coach.

Update: I accidentally uploaded the wrong image originally. Both the small and enlarged images have been corrected.