The Scoop on Scutaro

For Marco Scutaro the 2009 season was a career year for him on many fronts. His triple-slash of .282/.379/.409 marked career highs for him in each category which earned him a rather pleasant wRC+ of 117. Coupled with solid defense at shortstop, Scutaro, was worth 4.5 WAR. Not bad at all. This earned him his first lucrative free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox, a two-year deal worth $12 million.

Scutaro will be 34-years-old this season and what can we expect from the new shortstop entering the shortstop carousel in Boston?

First off, his .304 BABIP in 2009 may suggest regression upon first glance when you consider that Scutaro’s career BABIP is .289. Enter the Hardball Times BABIP Calculator and the system spits out an xBABIP of .311. While it’s useful to look at career BABIPs and recent trends it’d be hard to penalize Scutaro for his BABIP with the calculator confirming his 2009 score especially when we consider his altered approach at the plate.

Scutaro’s plate discipline statistics here are quite telling. Simply put, Scutaro stopped offering at so many pitches in 2009. His z-swing (55.5%-61.6% career) and swing percentages (34.5%-40.3% career) took big dips compared to his career and 2008 rates. This coincides with his career high 13.2% walk rate. Maintaining this new approach will be pivotal for Scutaro going forward as it seemed to take his performance to a different level and boosted his OBP to a very nice .379.

He also set career highs in homers (12), slugging percentage (.409), and stolen bases (14). Expecting around ten stolen bases next year looks like a reasonable assumption and lucky for Scutaro his new approach and power at the plate are two skills that don’t figure to erode as quickly with his age.

Scutaro is also moving to a friendly hitters park which figures to assist him and pad his line even if he isn’t as good as he was last year. He’s spent the majority of his career in Oakland and Toronto which are two prominent run suppressing environments.

Consider his home and road splits over the past three seasons according to wRC+.

2007: Home-76. Road-100.
2008: Home-88. Road-96.
2009: Home-105. Road-129.

This further cements the notion that the move to Fenway park is only going to help Scutaro. He is already familiar with the AL East and should enjoy spending half of his games at Fenway.

Scutaro may have peaked at a later age but if he can maintain the approach at the plate that he displayed last season then we should expect another solid season from Scutaro in 2010. He should also benefit from the strong forces around him in the line up. I’m very underwhelmed by THE FANS .272/.351/.379 projection for Scutaro. I like ZiPS’ .297/.378/.420 projection much more despite their super optimistic batting average.

While Scutaro isn’t a great fantasy option by any means he’s a good, cheap option if you’re bare at the shortstop position. He’s currently only owned in 58% of ESPNs leagues and is being drafted towards the very end of drafts. He should be owned in much more leagues. Don’t let Scutaro’s rare, late performance peak fool you. He’s in a good situation to excel in Boston and has a great chance of putting a stop to that shortstop carousel in Beantown for the next two seasons.




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Dan is a Sports Marketing major at Duquesne University and most recently interned with Baseball America. He also spent parts of two seasons as an intern with the Washington Nationals. He aspires to work in a baseball operations department and can be reached at danbudreika@gmail.com.

12 Responses to “The Scoop on Scutaro”

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  1. SF 55 for life says:

    that ZIPS triple slash line is formed by a projected .328 BABIP, not going to happen.

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    • alskor says:

      The explanation was he’s moving from playing nearly the entirety of his career in two of the parks that most suppress AVG (Oakland and Toronto) to a AVG friendly park. I’m buying the ZiPS line.

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  2. Johnny Tuttle says:

    Better than Desmond or A. Escobar in a redraft OPB/SLG league?

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  3. Alex D. says:

    Good stuff. I hadn’t ever looked at his home/road splits.

    CHONE’s got him down for .268 /.360 /.367, and I think, according to Tom Tango’s site, that’s the gold standard projection system. I’d probably trust that line more than the other two.

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  4. Craig says:

    I took a quick look at Marco’s approach at the plate last year here: http://sabometrics.com/?p=314

    I’m not sure if it’s something he can sustain but if it is I think he could come pretty close to replicating last year’s numbers. I also think that the Green Monster will turn some of his singles/fly outs into doubles and HRs.

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  5. JayCee says:

    I disagree with the claim on the ownership rate.

    The next-higher guy is Miguel Tejada, who is worth an awful lot more than Scutaro but is only owned in 2% more leagues. Orlando Cabrera, who is worth about the same as Scutaro, is owned in 40% fewer leagues.

    Scutaro is overrated.

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  6. rotofan says:

    I posted this about Scutaro several months ago on another site:

    Scutaro had a career year but you need to understand why before you can project what he’s likely to do this year. Here’s why he had a career year:

    (1) Until 2008 he was a utility player who only had more than 400 at-bats once. If you take his power and stolen base numbers from those years and adjust them for a full season, they are pretty close to what he did last year. In fact his isolated power last year was BELOW his career average

    (2) When he played for the A’s, he played his home games in the worst park in the league for right-handed hitters, he was expected to play many different positions and he pinch-hit a lot, all factors that weighed down his batting average and production. It’s not surprising his batting average was up last year because he played every day at the same position and didn’t pinch-hit.

    (3) The one skill he improved substantially was his ability to draw walks. Scutaro was always above average in this skill but became elite last year. He did this by having the second lowest percentage in baseball of swings of pitches out of the strike zone (12.3%). When he did swing at pitches, he had the third highest contact rate in baseball (93.3%). Those sorts of numbers don’t scream fluke. They show that given a role where his primary job was to get on-base (as a leadoff man), that became his focus and he excelled (.370 OBP). With the Red Sox he’s expected to bat ninth or lead off and either way his role will be the same: Get on base.

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  7. teejay1324 says:

    Don’t remember where I read it, might have been on SOSH but Scutaro talked about being more patient at the plate last year because he felt more comfortable working counts because he knew he had an everyday job. Before that he said he took a more aggressive approach because he had less guaranteed playing time and he felt he needed to try and make things happen to get more ABs.

    His change in mental approach coinciding with more playing time makes a lot of sense in this case, I know players say all sorts of things that may or may not bear out in their stats but it would seem to in this case.

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  8. rotofan says:

    No one should judge Scutaro base on his first game (or his first month) but that game showed the sort of value I expect him to have for the Red Sox. He got on base three of four times, didn’t swing at a pitch outside the strike zone, has two solid hits and a walk and was instrumental in two rallies, knocking in the second run off Sabathia in the fifth inning, starting the rally in the 7th with a singe that led to 3 runs and a Red Sox rally that reclaimed the lead, and advancing a runner on first with a walk who then scored on single with an insurance run in the eighth. While Pedroia and Youkilis will get most of the ink for their big hits, Scutaro put them in the position to knock in runs.

    That is typical Scutaro, a big reason why last year Hill and Lind had monster rbi totals and a big reason why he will prove so valuable to the Red Sox.

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