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.