The Red Sox won 5-0 last night, their seventh win in eight games, and it was largely because Daisuke Matsuzaka was both dominant and efficient for the second straight outing. The high end of my Matsuzaka expectations rarely exceeds “hopefully he can keep Boston’s excellent offense in the game” but I am getting close to recalibrating those if he can string together a few more strong outings. Carl Crawford had two hits including a double, and also made a loud out on a liner to center field. As I said on Twitter last night, he’s close. Kevin Youkilis homered and Jed Lowrie tacked on another two hits as well.
Let’s talk about Youk a little bit. His home run last night was to right-center field, just like his Patriots Day home run. You may recall, too, that Youkilis hit a double that game off the top of the right field wall. Going on nothing but observation, it seemed to me that he was driving the ball the other way more than he had in the past. So I decided to take a look. First, let’s compare his 2011 spray chart to 2010′s courtesy of Texas Leaguers.
In 2010, about 20% of Youk’s hits went to right field. In 2011, seven of his 13 hits have, including two of his home runs and a double that bounced off the top of the Fenway bullpen wall. It’s too early to assign significance to this change, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I should also note that Youkilis does have some history of going the other way with power. While all of his 2010 home runs were pulled (literally all of them), here are where his 2009 homers landed. The scatter plot comes by way of Hit Tracker.
As you can see, Youk did hit a few opposite field home runs in 2009. It’s too early to know if this is a new Youkilis, one who will drive the ball more consistently the other way. To take it a step further, it’s also too early to know whether or not that would even be a good thing. Youkilis has been a dominant offensive force for three-plus seasons as predominantly a pull hitter. A newfound ability or willingness to take it to right could signal a more well-rounded approach that would cause more problems for opposing pitchers trying to get Youk out. Or, his new skill could come at the expense of a style that has served him so well since 2008. Whatever the case, it bears watching.