Over the past few days I continue to hear the Rockies radio guys talk about how Marco Scutaro has “really turned it on” since being traded to the San Francisco Giants. Yesterday Jerry Schemmel was raving about his 32 RBI since joining the team (or since August 1st, I can’t recall exactly) and how that was second on the team during that span. And the amazement that he was doing this while batting second!! We all know that only guys who bat third or fourth can knock in runs *rolling eyes*. (And yet, for some reason, whether it is the cleanup hitter, leadoff man or pitcher the only stats ever provided are batting average, home runs and RBI.)
This isn’t the first time I have heard Rockies radio or TV personalities say that Scutaro has gotten better since the trade. The Root guys like to say that he performs better as a complimentary player on a contending team.
So, without digging into the stats – yet – what is the first thing that you think of when you hear these sorts of comments? What does it say about Scutaro? He was acquired because he was supposed to be a good clubhouse influence on some of the younger Rox and he also had a slow heartbeat. But when I hear these comments it makes me think he was mailing it in when he was with the Rockies. If a player can truly “turn it on” when switching teams that means he must have had it turned off prior to the trade, right? So wouldn’t that make Scutaro the EXACT OPPOSITE of a good clubhouse guy? The EXACT OPPOSITE of the kind of player you want to show the kids how the game is supposed to be played?
Wouldn’t this make this acquisition a horrible one by Dan O’Dowd? If he acquired him for his positive influence but when he was playing with the Rockies he wasn’t giving it his all – he turned it on when going to San Francisco – then it was a poor acquisition. O’Dowd acquired an older second basemen with average stats for his clubhouse appeal, which is atrocious.
Now the question I want to answer is if Scutaro really did see a jump in production after being traded to San Francisco. And, no, I won’t include RBI and runs scored in my comparison.
With the Rockies Scutaro played in 95 games and racked up 415 plate-appearances, a solid sample size. In those 415 PA’s he batted .271/.324/.361 and his BABIP (batted balls in play) was .287. He had 23 extra base hits (16 doubles, three triples and four homers) and seven stolen bases on his way to surpassing the century mark in hits (102 to be exact).
With the Giants Scoot has played in 51 games and has 229 plate-appearances, not a great sample size, but it will have to work. In those 229 PA’s he has batted .356/.375/.457 with a BABIP of .362. He already has 16 extra base hits in about half of the playing time and two stolen bags.
In just looking at those numbers one could easily say that Scutaro has, in fact, turned it on since joining the Giants. Sure he has more luck since joining the team since his balls in play find turf nearly 80 points more of the time but his walk and strikeout rates are nearly identical between both his time in Colorado and San Francisco.
Let’s look at his career stats and see if he just wasn’t cold in the beginning portion of the year and has since moved closer to his career stats since joining San Francisco – merely a coincidence, not a correlation.
In his career Scutaro has never slugged more than .423 for an entire season. His on-base percentage has never finished higher than .379 and his batting average usually hangs around the .260-.290 range. In other words his triple slash with San Francisco (.356/.375/.457) is higher than his career numbers suggest (.275/.339/.390). In fact, his numbers with the Giants are pretty much the best of his career.
But wait! There’s more! We can’t just look at 229 plate appearances and make an adequate assumption of a player’s performance, we need more. And if the 415 PA with the Rockies is a good sample size, then if we add the 229 with San Francisco for 644 PA then we must have a really super solid sample size. So if we combine his time with San Fran and Colorado in 2012 we get a triple slash of .301/.342/.395. Now that is starting to look a lot more like his .275/.339/.390 career numbers. Scutaro does have a BABIP if .315 so far in 2012 and that is just slightly better than his career mark of .296 which explains the higher batting average – he is getting lucky this year. But outside of his batting average his on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 2012 are almost identical to his career numbers.
To sum up: I don’t think Scutaro “turned it on” since going to San Francisco. I don’t think he was tanking it with the Rockies, either. I think, unfortunately for the Rockies, Scutaro was in a mini-slump until he was traded. His first week with the Giants he batted .296/.333/.370 and since has gotten hot to help bring his yearly numbers closer to his career norm.
There are many cases in which a player starts the season scorching hot, way better than his career numbers suggest he can play. Eventually the law of averages catches up to that player and his numbers drop and before you know it the player finishes his year right in line with his career numbers. That is called regressing to the mean and it goes the other way for guys who start slowly.
Albert Pujols was on some kind of home run tracker to start the year since he went 0-for-27 in games played without a home run to start the year. The question was: “has Albert finally gotten old?!”. Now here we are with the season nearing end and he has 30 home runs and while his OPS is slightly lower than years past it isn’t out of this world lower. In fact, I would say Albert’s early season struggles were partly on himself because he was probably putting pressure on himself after signing the mega-deal and partly a new league, clubhouse, city, etc. I bet next year his OPS nears 1.000 again and he is an MVP candidate.
On a much smaller scale Scutaro is having the same sort of surge to get to his career statistical norm.
Unfortunately TV and Radio guys like to believe in “clutch” and a player’s ability to “turn it on”. This just isn’t true with Scutaro, he is just finally catching up to his statistical track record.
And how come those TV and Radio guys never talk about guys who aren’t clutch and guys who have “turned it off”? Just another immeasurable way to build up a player.