Marco Scutaro & The Value Disconnect

While fantasy baseball doesn’t pretend to fully reflect on-the-field value for individual players, there’s always a strange disconnect when a player objectively compiles a quality season and it’s not captured in standard fantasy formats. Often, that difference can be ascribed to defensive value, which is not accounted for in fantasy, but occasionally, a player pops up who provides solid offensive value for their team yet is marginally useful in fantasy.

This year, Marco Scutaro of the San Francisco is a perfect example of the value disconnect.

Scutaro is hitting .313/.373/.391 on the season and owns a +2.3 WAR. He was voted to the All-Star Game earlier this month. Furthermore, among second basemen who have accumulated at least 200 plate appearances this year, the 37-year-old veteran has the sixth-best wRC+ at 122. By almost any measure we utilize to describe value, Scutaro has clearly been an above-average player for the San Francisco Giants. It would be a waste of time to even debate that fact.

However, according to ESPN’s player ratings, he is the 18th-ranked fantasy second baseman this season. He even ranks behind utility man Mike Aviles, who doesn’t even play everyday for the Indians. As discussed above, his fantasy ranking lies in stark contrast to his obvious on-the-field value. It’s of the main reasons he has such high ownership rates (77.4% in ESPN leagues) compared to someone such as Brian Dozier (12.2%) — although Dozier has essentially had the same fantasy value to this point in the season. To push the point further, Scutaro even has a higher ownership rate than Kelly Johnson, who is the 11th-ranked fantasy second baseman in 2013.

So, the real question: how does a player with a .340 wOBA and a 122 wRC+ become a fringe fantasy producer?

Scutaro’s main strength lies in his ability to control the strike zone. He hits for great average and pairs that with a solid walk rate to post an above-average OBP. That’s obviously very valuable. However, he offers almost nothing in any of the counting categories. He doesn’t hit for any power, drive in many runs or steal many bases. Here’s how he ranks in each standard rotisserie category among second basemen with at least 200 plate appearances:

Category 2B Rank
Runs 14
HR 27
RBI 24
SB 27

All of Scutaro’s value is tied up in a single category, and that’s not enough to be a useful fantasy player when the performance in the other categories is decidedly below-average. If he was anything but dreadful in the bottom-three categories outlined above, he would be a nice little mid-tier player in most fantasy leagues. As it stands, his faults more than outweigh his strengths.

That’s interesting to think about in the context of fantasy baseball. Although fantasy doesn’t claim to encapsulate the entirety of a player’s on-the-field value, it does hope to accurately capture their offensive value. That’s why guys like Marco Scutaro are intriguing outliers. But, at the same time, that’s why fantasy baseball is about more than just drafting the guy with the best wOBA or FIP. It’s important to understand how value is calculated in your league and view players through that lens.

And through most fantasy baseball lenses, Marco Scutaro is simply not very valuable this year.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

7 Responses to “Marco Scutaro & The Value Disconnect”

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  1. jorgesca says:

    Would this apply only to empty batting averages?

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  2. Petruchio says:

    Scutaro and Matt Carpenter are similar players, save for two important features – Carpenter hits for more power, and has a better lineup around him. A high average, high OBP hitter like Scutaro is going to be more valuable with the context dependent stats – RBI, R. The Giants are a horrible hitting team so it’s no surprise that he’s lagging in both.

    Truth be told, my original starting 2B was Brandon Phillips, but I traded him away and installed Carpenter as the starter because of how good the St. Louis lineup is, even without the power/steal potential of Phillips (which, even in old age, is still superior to the in-prime Carpenter).

    Scutaro still has value, but the Giants have to stop sucking for that value to trickle into fantasy relevance.

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  3. JKB says:

    It would be interesting to create a Fantasy/Reality Disconnect stat for hitters and pitchers. When I played H2H I always ranked players on the categories we used, and created an average rank. The issue with that is that the distribution of talent in some categories is very different than in others – take stolen bases for example. Also, talent in a few categories are highly correlated with each other. So in the end I would usually focus on a few categories via a weighted average rank. This helped me come in first or second each year, but I could never figure out how to reliably win the playoffs.

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  4. DrewK says:

    I use Scutaro at 3B in my OBP 12-team redraft. Do you see Chris Johnson or him as the better option for the rest of the season?

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    • jkirby says:

      all depends on the rest of your team. johnson has a little more power and XBH drive, but he strikes out nearly three times as much as scutaro. the makeup of the rest of your team would determine it for me.

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  5. jkirby says:

    over the past couple of seasons, i’ve actually found quite a bit of value for him. as a starting utility man that i can plug-and-play into several positions, he’s been quite valuable. especially when he’s playing on days when other 2B or SS (or both) have off-days, are injured, or are slumping. consistently having his 1-for-3 games every day is a big boost when you compare it to having nothing at all for those games or even a decrease in average/OBP or just lack of hits. if my regular second baseman would have gone 1 for 4 or even ofer, then scutaro isn’t just worth the 1 for 3 he would add in his place, he’s worth the 1 for 3 plus the difference in how much the other player could’ve brought the collective average down. playing scutaro with a few good nights over a slumping, absent, or hurt infielder can easily bring your collective average up 20 to 25 points (and has on several occasions) or more with added defensive efforts, more walks than Ks, and occasional triples that can win you H2H weeks with only 1 triple more often than not.

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  6. John H says:

    Funny to come home and read this tonight, as I dumped Scutaro for Villar today for this very reason. Need the steals and I win average most weeks so it seemed like adding something and losing a redundant stat.

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