Monday, October 19, 2009

Iron Age

It is only October 20th and yet the annual "offseason straw-grasp" is already in full swing in the blogosphere. New GM Alex Anthopolous's recent comments regarding the teams non-specific interest in resigning Marco Scutaro caused a few waves. Some considered them a waste of time, others thought they were a clear indication of AA's intent to to retain Scutaro.

I've said all along that I'm against resigning Scutaro. He did a terrific job; first as a utility guy then as the everyday shortstop. That J.P. acquired him for a song and paid him very little (just over $1.5 mil for 2009, less than Johnny Mac!) is very much icing on the cake. Scutaro did well to turn himself into a good leadoff man and an excellent fielding shortsto///////RECORD SCRATCH!!!!!!!!

Remember how we all raved over Scutaro's defense this year, how impressive he both looked and rated in the various metrics? A funny thing happened on the way to a silk glove: Marco Scutaro ran out of gas. Not only did Scutaro's offence go south as the season wore on, his defense did the very same.

Consider this post I wrote on August 5th. The content of the post doesn't look at Macro Scutaro's defensive runs: 16. Meaning his UZR on August 5th was 16.0 runs. Looking at his final season numbers we see a frightening total: 0.3 Over the final two months (6 weeks before his injury) Marco Scutaro played 16 runs below average.

Brian Joseph of Baseball Digest Daily compiled all defensive numbers for shortstops around the same time in August for his excellent Digging in the Dirt series. At that time Scutaro sported a UZR/150 of 7.0 (finished 0.1), a RZR of .825 (finished .799) with 48 out of zone plays (finished with 61) and so on and so forth.

I don't point this out to disparage Scutaro, more than anything I was shocked to see how far his defensive numbers fell. I also recognized this numbers aren't infallible, but they do represent a decline. A significant one, especially as it relates to signing an aging player to a multi-year contract. As each year passes, Scutaro will break down earlier and earlier. There is no guarantee he will ever rediscover his range or his legs as the innings mount.

One option, one I wouldn't oppose, is making Scutaro the everyday third baseman. Though his range declined, Scutaro remained incredibly sure-handed, making few errors on the balls he fielded (other than a few in high leverage situations) and fewer throwing errors. Offensively his skills are decidedly "old player" meaning Cito could slot him in at the top of the order and expect pretty similar production (just not EVERY day Cito, give the man a rest.

Would Scutaro agree to be the third baseman if other offers to play short every day exist? I don't know, though the lure of natural grass is just about enough to get anyone out of town. Hopefully the Jays recognize how "profit" they've already made off Scutaro and don't flush it all down the toilet on an aging player during his decline phase.


  1. I remember, on more than one occasion, Cito saying that Scutaro's foot had been pretty seriously hurt for the last 2 or so months of the season. I'm paraphrasing, but Cito said he kept running him out there every day because "he wanted to play every day."

    Anyways, I think what we need to take out of this is that we don't know how much of Scutaro's decline was due to fatigue, and how much was due to his injury. The fact that his play dropped so dramatically right around the same time he supposedly got hurt seems to point to the latter.

  2. couple of possible mitigating factors:

    1. the injury as mentioned above

    2. the fact that this was scutaro's first season of everyday play. i remember johnny mac declining defensively late season a few years ago, he attributed it to not being used to playing every day, and so worked hard in the offseason to improve his stamina over the season.

    also the fact that scutaro plays winter ball may have affected him - usually it wouldn't matter, as he would have plenty of rest during the season. but when he's been playing everday for practically 18 months, it's got to add up. maybe a better offseason preparation would see him have a strong full season next year.

    of course, it may be that he's not up to it. but i hope (for his sake and possibly the jays') that he can do it

  3. Maybe Cito should have given him a day off here or there.

  4. I agree Anon, Cito certainly should rest him more often.

    Which speaks to my larger concern, especially if he's to play short everyday. Are you going to dictate he can't play winterball? Do you believe a 35 year old man will discover the kind of conditioning required to play shortstop on concrete every day? AFTER you've made him unthinkably rich?

    I dunno. Again, I like Scutaro and think he could be a good third base stopgap for a year or two, if EE doesn't work out. But the hole at shortstop isn't going anywhere soon.

  5. Defense gets girls? I thought that chicks dig the long ball.

  6. Regarding Scutaro, I'd be interested to see how he rates out according to TotalZone for 2009 and I don't subscribe to Bill James Online, so I'd like to know how he did +/- for '09 as well.

    UZR liked Scutaro last season (+14.4 including positional adjustment), but not nearly as much as TZ (+25, incl. PA) or +/- (+15 at 3B and +12 at short).

  7. His +/- was excellent as of August 5th, it remains to be seen if it fell off like the rest. The injury fears are legitimate, but so is reluctance to invest in an aging player.



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