Wednesday night marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the “Jewish New Year”. That means its time for another Sabbathmetrics post, in which we look at whether certain Jewish players performed better on worse on the Sabbath. This time, we focus our attention on Kevin Youkilis.
Many fans first found out about Youkilis in the pages of “Moneyball”. In the book, author Michael Lewis wrote that given his preternatural ability to get on base, while he was still a minor leaguer Youkilis (whose surname is of Greek origin) was nicknamed “Euclis: The Greek God of Walks“.
In 2012, the New York Times published a lengthy article on Youkilis’ heritage:
The Youkilis family was not originally named Youkilis. Far from it, although exactly what occurred on the other side of the Atlantic more than a hundred years ago is more spoken lore than documented fact.
“There are so many stories in the family,” Mike Youkilis, Kevin’s father, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “But we’ve agreed on one.”
In that story, there was, sometime in the 1800s, a teenager with the last name Weiner, who is believed to have been Kevin Youkilis’s great-great-great-great-grandfather — give or take a great — and who lived in what is now Romania. Fearing the Cossacks, who were no friends of the Jews, and of being drafted at age 16 into the army, he fled to Greece.
“Apparently, there was a family friend there with a name like Youkilis,” Mike Youkilis said. “A couple of years later, he got homesick, and when he decided to go home, he couldn’t come back with the name Weiner or he’d be thrown in jail. So he took the Greek name. He met a lady and they married in Romania and started to have kids. And we kept the name.”
Edward Youkilis, Kevin’s uncle, could not recall relatives ever suggesting that the name be restored to Weiner. “We grew up with everyone thinking we were Greek, but never once did I hear a relative say let’s change it back,” he said by telephone. “It wasn’t something we thought was unusual in those days.”
Anyhow, during his first major league game in 2004, Youkilis (in his second at bat) homered against 1996 Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, becoming just the seventh player in team history to hit a home run in his first game. On September 24 of that year, which was Yom Kippur, Youkilis appeared in the dugout in uniform, but declined to participate in the game out of deference to the religious holiday.
In April 2008, he broke the major league record for most consecutive errorless games by a first baseman. In his 205th game without an error on April 27, Youkilis also established a new major league record for first basemen, when he fielded his 1,701st consecutive chance without an error, passing the old mark of 1,700 set by Stuffy McInnis from 1921 to 1922. His streak, which started on July 4, 2006, was snapped at 238 games (2,002 fielding attempts) on June 7, 2008.
In that same season, Youkilis captured the AL Hank Aaron Award, banging out 29 homers, driving in 115 and putting up a slash line of .312/.390/.569. He finished third in the AL MVP vote that season, behind Dustin Pedroia and Justin Morneau. Throughout his career, the postseason seemed to bring out the best in him, as he compiled a .306/.376/.568 in 125 playoff plate appearances.
|SABBATHMETRICS: KEVIN YOUKILIS|
|HR% of PA||3.5%||3.0%||3.4%|
|BB% of PA||12.1%||12.3%||12.2%|
|SO% of PA||18.1%||20.8%||18.7%|
I’m pretty confident in stating that Youkilis DID generate less offense on the Sabbath. His batting average suffered by 31 points, his slugging percentage was lower by 65 points, and even his vaunted on-base percentage was 18 points lower on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. He also tended to strikeout a bit more on the Sabbath (21% to 18% of plate appearances).