After an impressive 2009 season in which Marco Scutaro held a .354 wOBA, he’s back to a modest .317, almost a perfect match for his career average. In other words: Scutaro is back to being Scutaro. Digging around his Baseball-Reference page leads me to ask this question: would you suspect that Scutaro strikes out more often looking or swinging?
I knew Scutaro is among the game’s premiere in-zone contact hitters. This year he’s at 97.3% and at 94.3% for his career, which suggests that Scutaro is unlikely to swing and miss often, but it can happen. As it turns out, though, Scutaro isn’t swinging and missing a lot for strike three at all. He actually leads the league in strikeouts looking (divided by total strikeouts) among batters with 300+ plate appearances. Not only that, but Scutaro is at 64% (he’s one of three players over 50% and the only one above 55%), which happens to be four standard deviations from the mean (24%).
The 64% figure would only be the second highest rate of Scutaro’s career, with 2007’s 65% finishing in first; in between, Scutaro posted rates of 51% and 60%. Suffice to say that Scutaro enjoys watching, which is probably not one of his endearing qualities. I wanted to see just what Scutaro is looking at and as such took his pitchfx data this season and plotted it like such:
I’m no Dave Allen, but I did add a little Paint to the image with those four lines. The points are not arbitrary, as the black lines indicate the edges of the plate and the red lines represent the half inch points. Anything that falls within the red is over the middle while anything outside the black is off the plate. Your eyes do not lie as most of Scutaro’s strike threes take place on the outside corner.
It seems to me those spots are going to make it hard for any batter to put a good swing on the pitch. As Scutaro seems to understand his own limitations at making contact, perhaps the high density of taken strikes is admittance that some of these pitches were simply placed in an unhittable position in the zone, even for the guy who hits everything in the zone.
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