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Luke Scott and His Secret

Apparently, struggling Baltimore Orioles OF/DH Luke Scott is running out of ideas on how to break out of his slump. Here’s one: just wait. I know, that’s really helpful. Seriously, Scott and his coaches (and probably opposing scouts) might be able to find something that’s wrong with his current approach and routine, although it does sound like he’s been frustrated on that score. But from the looks of things, Scott is the same hitter he was in past years, when he made up for a relatively low batting average with a good walk rate and power. Scott’s line so far this season really has been dreadful, as he’s “hitting” .177/.253/.354 for a .270 wOBA. That’s bad even for Jason Kendall. “Small sample size” is the first thing to say, and probably is all we need to say, quite frankly, but let’s dig a bit deeper.

Scott came to the Orioles from the Astros before the 2008 season, and hit .257/.336/.472 for a .343 wOBA in 2008, and improved on that line in 2009: .258/.340/.488, .355 wOBA. While Scott’s on-base percentage isn’t mind-blowing, that’s mostly due to his slightly below-average batting average, his walk rate has always been above average. His main asset other than his walks is his power, as his career ISO is .228. His walk rate has remained intact so far in 2010 at about 9.2%, which is only slightly lower than his usual rate. His strikeout rate has increased, however, jumping ot 29% whereas in recent seasons it has been between 21% and 23%. While his overall contact rate is about the same as in past seasons, he does seem to be swinging at a few more pitches out of the zone than usual (28.6 2010 O-Swing% vs. 23.2%), although it isn’t a drastic, perhaps a reflection of growing frustration. Scott’s isolated power is also down to .177, which isn’t bad. Scott’s batted ball profile is also roughly the same as always, with a slighly lower HR/FB ratio than in the past, which partly explains his lower isolated power. Scott’s never been reliant on a high BABIP, with a career BABIP under .300, but his current .208 average on balls in play is clearly founded on a whole lot of bad luck.

The Orioles as a whole have been terrible so far this season, just like Scott, but, like Scott, they aren’t as bad as they’ve looked. Scott’s struggles so far must be frustrating for the Orioles because he’s a good hitter on a cheap salary who has trade value as a left fielder (despite being pushed out of left by younger players, his defense there is average at worst) or a designated hitter, especially when teams with designs on the playoffs are starting players like Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Sweeney, Eric Chavez, Juan Pierre, and Pat Burrell at DH. But whether it’s for the Orioles or for some other team, the “secret” to Scott coming out of his struggles seems to be to wait around for his luck to even out.