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Marco Scutaro Is Still a Game of Pepper

Posted By Jeff Sullivan On October 22, 2012 @ 6:36 pm In Cardinals,Daily Graphings,Giants | 11 Comments

Generally speaking, players not named Carlos Beltran don’t turn into different players come playoff time. That wouldn’t make any sense — it’s still regular baseball, and the things that apply in September still apply in October. Players might become slightly less effective in the playoffs, due to the increased quality of competition, but a strike-thrower will probably stay a strike-thrower and a power hitter will probably stay a power hitter. So maybe it doesn’t need to be written that Marco Scutaro has been doing an incredible job of making contact in this year’s postseason. But, aw, what the heck, we’re all here. What follows is an incomplete list of players who have one strikeout in the 2012 MLB playoffs:

What a carefully-selected list of players who have barely batted, and Marco Scutaro! Indeed, Scutaro’s up to 48 postseason plate appearances, tying him for seventh-most in baseball. He’s got just the one strikeout to his name, against Edward Mujica in Game 1 of the NLCS. As a Giant in the regular season, Scutaro was an extreme contact hitter. As a Giant in the playoffs, Scutaro has been an extreme contact hitter.

We have written about this before, where by “We” I mean “I”. Before, Scutaro already made contact almost all of the time. But he’s made only more contact since joining the Giants, due either to something or to nothing. What makes his postseason performance worth noting is that strikeouts tend to be more frequent in the playoffs. Some quick numbers:

2012 MLB, regular season: 19.8% strikeouts
2012 MLB, postseason:
21.9% strikeouts

Giants, Sep/Oct, regular season: 17.3% strikeouts
Giants, October, postseason:
20.5% strikeouts

Scutaro’s teammates have had a little bit more trouble making contact, which one can only imagine comes from facing better pitchers, but Scutaro’s still been chugging along as his old reliable self. Naturally, this isn’t just about Scutaro’s ability to avoid striking out. It’s more about his ability to avoid swinging and missing. I’ve got Scutaro as having attempted 78 swings so far in this year’s playoffs. Below are .gifs I’ve prepared of all of his swings and misses out of those 78 hacks.

Two. We’ve got Scutaro swinging through an offspeed pitch from Mujica over the plate on October 17, and we’ve got Scutaro swinging through an outside fastball from Adam Wainwright on October 18. All the other 76 swings have resulted in at least some form of contact with the baseball. Of those, 44 have resulted in a ball in play, 42 percent of which have been line drives. Scutaro’s postseason contact rate is just above 97 percent.

That’s fitting — Scutaro’s contact rate after joining the Giants was just above 97 percent. Before that, he’d hovered in the low- to mid-90s. I don’t know if this boost is sustainable, and considering the extremity I’d say probably not, but even if it isn’t sustainable that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. No matter what happens tonight and beyond, the lingering impression of Marco Scutaro as a Giant will be that he never struck out, and when he swung, he hit the ball and he hit the ball hard.

It’s such a treat for a manager to have a player like Scutaro, because players like Scutaro don’t often make managers look stupid when they dabble in strategy. Scutaro is the absolute classic number-two hitter, and I don’t know if a more classic number-two hitter has ever existed. Scutaro’s disciplined, and when he swings, he sprays. He doesn’t chase and he doesn’t get the bat knocked out of his hands. He almost never crushes a pitch, but Scutaro’s role isn’t to make outfielders explore warning tracks. He’s in there to be consistent and annoying.

The Giants, of course, are thrilled to have Scutaro now, as they try to knock off the Cardinals and then win a World Series. They’re thrilled to have acquired Scutaro for such a low cost. And Scutaro’s unquestionably thrilled to be in the playoffs for just the second time in his life. But while Scutaro probably isn’t thinking about what’ll come next, one should note that he’s going to be a free agent, and he’s been doing absolute wonders for his value. After being freed from a terrible team, Scutaro’s batted 316 times for a contender and hit .355 while almost never striking out. People have noticed and people will tell his agent just how much they noticed.

It turned into a good summer for Marco Scutaro. That’s led to a good fall for Marco Scutaro. And now it’s all set up to be a good winter for Marco Scutaro, no matter what happens Monday night. It’s been a good year for Marco Scutaro.


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