Welcome to The Trop, Luke Scott

While fans of large market teams get to look forward to the Winter Meetings, us small-market fans have a different, less heralded offseason event to look forward to each year: the Mid-January Bargain Bin Shopping Spree! At this point of the offseason, players that haven’t yet signed with a team start to feel pressure to sign — Spring Training begins in around a month, after all — and there are normally some good bargains that can be found on the market. Ryan Madson appears to be this year’s first victim, although I’m sure there will be many more cheap deals signed in the coming weeks.

One of the most intriguing potential buy-low signings available in this year’s Bargain Bin is Luke Scott. After hitting 27 homeruns in 2010 and posting a .387 wOBA, Scott suffered through a number of injuries last season and eventually had season-ending shoulder surgery in July. He was non-tendered by the Orioles earlier this offseason, and due to his age (turning 34 in June) and injury history, he seems like a good candidate for a cheap one-year deal with incentives.

Dan Connolly from the Baltimore Sun has just confirmed that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed Scott to a one year deal with an option for a second (pending a physical), which would seem to confirm our brief surface analysis: he’s a good buy low candidate, and could provide some cheap power at DH. But on digging into his profile more, there is one reason we might want to temper our expectations for Luke Scott: Tropicana Field.

Camden Yards may not get much publicity as a hitter’s park, but it is a dreamhouse for left-handed hitters. Last season, Camden Yards boosted overall offensive performance for left-handed hitters by around 4%; even with its short right-field porch, Yankee Stadium only clocked in at 3%. The majority of this boost came in the power department, as Camden increased homeruns for left-handed hitters by 18%. That right field wall may be high, but that doesn’t appear to be slowing anyone down.

Meanwhile, Tropicana Field is the most difficult park in the AL East for left-handed hitters…and it’s particularly difficult for left-handed power hitters. The Trop suppresses homeruns from lefties at around an 11% clip, as the right-field wall is at a sharp angle and reaches 380-390 feet in right-center.

For a quick and dirty look at how the Trop may impact Scott’s power, here are his doubles and homeruns from Camden Yards plotted onto the Trop’s dimensions.

Click to enlarge.
Plots courtesy of Katron.org.

Remember, these batted ball locations are taken from Gameday, so they shouldn’t be assumed to be 100% accurate. But even if you assume there’s some error in those plots, it still suggests that Scott will lose some homeruns as a Ray. His drives to center field and left field may turn into doubles or outs, which could drive his overall value down lower than we’d expect.

The effect of Camden Yards might also show up in another form: Scott’s home/road splits. Ever since joining the Orioles in 2007, Scott has performed considerably better at home than on the road. For example, in 2010, he had a 188 wRC+ in Camden Yards and an 88 wRC+ playing elsewhere. I normally don’t put much stock in home/road splits, but Scott showed this tendency every year during his time in Baltimore, and the cause of the drop seemed to have to do mainly with a loss of power: .333 ISO at home, .164 ISO on the road. Then again, Scott also appears to have hit the ball less solidly on the road overall — .345 BABIP at home, .261 on the road — so it’s tough to say how much of an effect the dimensions of Camden Yards have had on his power.

Luke Scott does have tremendous power potential, and he will surely add some much needed left-handed thump to the Rays’ lineup. However, there’s a reason that he’s coming at a bargain price; there are a number of question marks surrounding him — his shoulder, his age, his power — so his transition to Tropicana Field may not be the smoothest.

But when you’re operating on a small budget, you can’t afford to be too choosy. As the Rays know all too well, mitigated risk is the name of the game.

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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

34 Responses to “Welcome to The Trop, Luke Scott”

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  1. All good stuff. I think you’re right that he’ll struggle at the Trop. But at least he should be good for a absurd quote once in a while.

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    • Surrealistic Pillow says:

      Right, probably something about a constitutionally-protected freedom — such as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms. A real loon, that Luke Scott.

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      • AK says:

        Or throwing bananas at a black teammate whenever he thinks the teammate is “behaving like an animal.” Just a harmless defense of constitutionally protected rights!

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      • Hmm says:

        Are you really saying that friends can’t talk to each other however they want too? Would you kindly stop jumping in to other peoples lives and being offended for them?

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      • Surrealistic Pillow says:

        AK: though you’re apparently trying to be sarcastic, the situation you just described is indeed a harmless exercise of a constitutionally-protected right, namely freedom of speech. My friends and I make fun of each other’s race/religion/ethnicity/gender from time to time also, all without malice. I don’t understand why someone would seek to impose political correctness on the banter between a couple of close friends.

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      • AK says:

        Here’s the thing: no one is saying he can’t do it. The right is constitutionally protected. Friends can in fact behave in any way that they’d like. Likewise, when those private moments are shared with a national reporter– explicitly because the instigating actor wants to make a point about what he believes is a state overrun by political correctness– people who aren’t involved in that personal friendship are well within their constitutional right to express offense.

        I’ve heard nothing about the government attempting to control what Luke Scott says. I’ve heard plenty of people flee to an improper shield of the First Amendment because others had the audacity to disagree with Scott’s intentionally provocative public statements. It’s almost as though those who claim to defend the First Amendment have the least understanding of what it entails.

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      • Hmm says:

        AK nobody is saying you can’t be offended for Pie or any of Scotts teammates. What I am saying is that when you do so, in the absence of their outrage you look ridiculous.

        Louis CK says horrible things on stage all the time, in the context of what his relationship to the audience is nobody is bothered by his doing so. You could choose to splice up the words of just about anyone to make them fit a narative you are building and advancing but you will lose the respect your are looking for when you overeach.

        In that article it was pretty clear that Luke chose to spend most of his time with, and build relationships with latin players, and that he refered to his white MiLB teammates as animals and monkeys too.

        You have the right to your political opinion, you have the right to look down on Luke Scott and shove him into a stereotype of a white southern racist(all the while ignoring the sweet irony) but you don’t know him, you don’t know his teammates or his relationship with them so all you are doing is looking to advance an unrelated agenda.

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      • AK says:

        You are right. I do not know him or his relationship with his teammates or what type of person he is.

        I do know that I’ve always liked him, that I’ve never shoved him into a box of any kind, and that I’ve always defended him for his controversial statements during his time as an Oriole.

        You’ve misunderstood the intention of my initial post. I replied to someone who said that all Luke Scott has ever said is a series of pro-guns and pro-Christian statements. Many people who aren’t familiar with the guy might think that it’s a little silly that we’re talking about someone because they’ve said they enjoy having guns and that they believe in God. It seemed relevant to me to point out that he’s also engaged in racially charged behavior– not in the privacy of his own relationships, but in the presence of an MLB reporter who he had invited into the situation, knowing that it would become a public matter. People are free not to be offended by his throwing banannas at Felix Pie, or his decision to refer to Pie as a savage, and to tell Pie that whether other white people are willing to admit it or not, they are all actually thinking the same thing whenever he behaves in a certain way. The person who suggested that all Scott ever said was that he likes his guns and he likes his god was being misleading. There’s other information that belongs in the conversation, and Scott himself is responsible for putting that information out there. This isn’t an infringement on anyone’s privacy, nor is it a matter of barging into someone’s personal relationship. He thrust himself into the public spotlight. The conversation that follows is therefore justified.

        My issue is twofold. One is the widely held belief that people are justified in saying anything they want and not expecting any repercussions for their statements due to the existence of the First Amendment. Freedom of Speech protects you from government censorship. It doesn’t protect you from the right of others to disagree with you.

        My other complaint is the misleading idea that all Scott ever did was say he enjoys owning guns and enjoys praying to a Christian God. That’s simply incorrect. In fact, he played for the Orioles for two years before he began dabbling in birtherism and publicly calling his teammate a savage.

        All that said, you might be surprised to hear that I like Luke Scott. A lot. He and Adam Jones have been my favorite Orioles since they came to the team, and I’ll continue to like him now that he’s a Ray. I disagree with what he says, but I don’t particularly care that he’s decided to say it. I do, however, care that people attempt to insulate him from criticism that he rightly deserves, and do so under false pretenses.

        I have plenty of off-color jokes in which I engage with friends of different races, religion and creeds. I too love Louis CK’s standup, and appreciated his defense of Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay material. Publicly inappropriate comments can be downright hysterical in a particular context. But if you want to question conventional wisdom and political orthodoxy, then don’t cop out behind the First Amendment. Obviously you have the Right to Free Speech. No one’s telling you what you can’t say. People are telling you they think you’re wrong. If you believe what you say, convince them you’re right. Or else, shut the eff up. It’s an act of cowardice that portrays itself as bravery, which is the opposite of what Louis CK does.

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  2. ttnorm says:

    Gameday is way way off.

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  3. delv says:

    There’s something about the obviousness of the thesis of this article (no offense to Slowinski; I agree with it) that makes me think that the Rays, in their infinite calculus of baseball SABR wisdom, must have, BY NECESSITY, considered some other factor that would counteract this ballpark issue and would cause them to instead expect excellence out of Scott. That said, given their recent history of sucking at selecting FA DHs (Burrell, Manny, etc.), there must in fact be SOME OTHER more disastrously negative factor that will actually be the cause of Luke Scott’s inevitable demise.

    Slowinski—get on it.

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    • I’ve got it: Scott will refuse to leave politics out of the clubhouse and there’ll be a huge blowup when he tries to convince Joe Maddon to support the Tea Party. Like in Manny’s case, you can’t quantify the crazy factor.

      But I largely agree…my point was relatively obvious, so I’ve got to imagine the Rays have looked into it already and aren’t that concerned by what they see. They wouldn’t have done this if they thought it was a huge problem…maybe there’s some extra added risk, but hopefully not that much.

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      • delv says:

        Slowinski: Now you’re using your head. I don’t know why fangraphs doesn’t publish more articles in this vein. Real predictive power. Otherwise, you guys will always be behind the Friedman curve.

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    • NM says:

      I wouldn’t exactly say they “sucked” at picking Manny as their DH. It was a great pickup that failed on them because he was caught violating the drug policy, and instead of serving the 50-game suspension, he quit on them. Not sure how you can blame the Rays’ front office for that. Burrell on the other hand, yeah, that was bad.

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      • Bryz says:

        Actually, since it was his second offense, it would have been a 100 game suspension last year.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        can’t blame the Rays front office for not forseeing that manny would continue to be a piece of shit human being? Let’s see, he’d quit on teams before, had suspensions before, and generally seems incredibly immature. I think you can forsee that.

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      • wobatus says:

        Hey, since he quit, wasn’t he mostly a freebie? Not too much downside.

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      • Awesome says:

        He had quit on his team to the tune of being in the top 10 OBP even in those years, getting manny was all upside

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      • Hmm says:

        Signing a guy coming off a .382 wOBA for two million dollars is hardly knucklehead territory

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    • guesswork says:

      We don’t know the value of the contract, or at least I haven’t seen it anywhere. If it is a relatively low valued contract, say $2-3 million, all that means is the Rays expect less than 1.0 WAR out of Scott. They have no reason to expect excellence, certainly not by necessity. Furthermore, Scott was a 2 win DH in Baltimore, so even with reduced power, reaching ~1.0 WAR is not crazy.

      Of course, if they are paying him $10 million, then you are correct, the Rays pretty much must see some reason to expect excellence by necessity.

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      • Baltar says:

        Yes, this is a point Slowinski didn’t express.
        Also, how well does he fit on the Rays roster? Will he be displacing somebody better or even worse?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      My first thought was “What about carlos Pena?”

      YEAR: HR/PA

      2007: Home – 23/293
      2007: Away – 23/319

      2008: Home – 14/304
      2008: Away – 17/303

      2009: Home – 19/287
      2009: Away – 20/283

      2010: Home – 18/284
      2010: Away – 10/298

      Total Home – 74/1168 = 15.78 AB/HR
      Total Away – 70/1203 = 17.18 AB/HR

      I know it’s just one guy, but I was thinking like you, “Why do the Rays think Scott will be fine in TB?” Part of it could be “Carlos Pena was just fine.”


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  4. tdotsports says:

    I’ll believe this contract is valid when I see the long form version.

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  5. Barack Obama says:

    I hope he presented a birth certificate before signing

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  6. Baroque6 says:

    “Camden Yards may not get much publicity as a hitter’s park”

    Huh? I think everyone thinks of Camden Yards as a hitter’s park. I remember a chat with Cameron in which he argued that its favorableness to hitters/HRs is actually overstated.

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  7. Terry Boers says:

    BJ Upton and Desmond Jennings won’t put up with Scott calling them “savages” like Felix Pie did. The only team Scott would fit on would be one owned my Marge Schott.

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  8. joser says:

    “Mid-January Bargain Bin Shopping Spree! ” — a couple of years ago Dave Cameron memorably labelled this behavior “Large Item Pickup Day“. It’s a useful mental construct that aptly describes the behavior of a lot of teams.

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