Scutaro Joins Boston

If one were to create a list of towns in which they would least want to regress from a career peak in fear of fan disapproval, Boston would likely rank pretty high. If that same one were a shortstop, Boston would be the top choice nowadays. Marco Scutaro dared the odds last night by agreeing to a two-year deal. This would seemingly dash any chances of Dustin Pedroia moving to shortstop and it also leaves the Sox losing their first round pick – but remember, they just picked one up thanks to Billy Wagner. Whether this pick goes to Toronto or … say, St. Louis, will be determined as the off-season progresses.

Dave Allen penned a masterful breakdown of Scutaro’s game here, and there’s not much to add. He is 34 years old and coming off what appears to be an anomalous performance. His 2010 wOBA will probably land somewhere below league average and his defense is a mixed bag. We know that if Scutaro fails in Boston, he will be battered with talk about how he couldn’t handle playing for a contender or how his effort slipped after signing (by his standards) a big deal. We know this because Boston has done it to a pair of other shortstops in recent years: Julio Lugo and Edgar Renteria. Here are some quick slash line comparisons at various stages of these players’ careers.

Season prior to joining Red Sox
Scutaro: .282/.379/.409
Lugo: .278/..341/.421
Renteria: .287/.327/.401

Three seasons prior to joining Red Sox
Scutaro: .272/.355/.379
Lugo: .284/.348/.405
Renteria: .308/.362/.440

Boston career
Lugo: .251/.319/.346
Renteria: .276/.335/.385

This isn’t to say something absurd – like shortstops simply cannot hit once they put on the emblem of Boston – but the coincidence will be the talk of the town when the inevitable occurs. Heck, it may not even take so long as spring training for people to write him off as a failure. Watch for the citing of his 100 career at-bats at Fenway in which he holds a .721 OPS and nine extra base hits or how his career batting average against the Yankees is .242 and an even worse .235 versus the Rays.

Scutaro swung the bat a smaller percentage of times and made contact more than he had previously done in his career. Will there be some retention in those areas? Probably. The safe bet seems to a wOBA around .325, which is coincidentally close to what the Fans and Bill James have projected. Scutaro’s defense is tougher to get a read on. Throughout his career he’s been a predominantly poor shortstop but the markings of improvement are there:

Season UZR/150
2009: 1.0 (1,252.2 innings)
2008: 20.3 (472.1)
2007: 2.6 (348)

The sample sizes from 2007-8 are uninspiring, meanwhile Dewan’s Plus/Minus has him worth 12, 9, and 1 runs saved during the same time period. Those numbers aren’t prorated and projected over 150 games though, so a direct comparison is more appropriate with the raw UZR figures of 0.9, 7.6, and 0.6. That just makes everything even murkier. The Fans Scouting Report held Scutaro in very high regard this season, placing him above Yunel Escobar and only three slots below Omar Vizquel. Just to be safe, project him at something like -5 < x < 5. Without the financial terms, it’s hard to label this deal as worthwhile, a steal, or a blunder, but it would seem safe to assume Scutaro will catch some grief for simply playing like he always has.

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