Yet again, I am compelled to defend Luke Scott as a premier slugger in the American League. That's right, I said it. Premier. Slugger.
Seeing these two items over the past week show that the perception of Scott does not match the reality, especially the Scott we saw in 2010. The first is from a comment I saw on a post at Baltimore Sports Report. The other is the closing line in a Baltimore Sun article by Jeff Zrebiec.
I do believe that Markakis gets even better if you put a true #4 bat in this lineup. - MGW
The offense also lacked a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter, a commodity that MacPhail has made a priority again this offseason. - Jeff Zrebiec
Now, I am not picking on the commenter or Zrebiec, just using them as examples of the (still) widespread perception that the O's did not have a "legitimate" clean up hitter or even a true "middle-of-the-order" caliber bat. They did and they do. Perhaps you've heard of him. His name is Luke Scott.
What is a clean up hitter? Beyond the obvious position in the batting order, what is his job? Steve Treder of The Hardball Times explains it far more eloquently than I can:
The role has been called "cleanup" since forever for a reason: See the runners soiling the pristine white bases out there? This guy's job is to clean them bases up, get them runners home.
Obviously it's great if a cleanup hitter hits for a high average and/or draws a lot of walks, but if he's doing either or both of those things without hitting for power, he isn't properly performing the cleanup function. Setting the table is a means to an end, not an end in itself; the purpose of getting on base is to come around and score. The cleanup hitter is there to convert baserunners into runs, to finish what the others have started. And that means hitting for power, and plenty of it.
Power. That's what a cleanup hitter is supposed to deliver. Why? Because the farther the batter can hit the ball, the longer it will take for the outfielders to get it back into the infield, giving the baserunners the most time to circle those bases and score. The guy who hits it the farthest, the most often, should be you cleanup hitter. Simple concept, right?
I have advocated Scott as the cleanup hitter in past seasons because he had very good power and there were scant options otherwise. This year, that was not the case. Scott was a legitimate cleanup hitter and hit for great power in 2010. And power is measured in slugging percentage (SLG) and Isolated Power (ISO)
AL Leaders in SLG for 2010 SLG Hamilton .633 Cabrera .622 Bautista .617 Konerko .584 Beltre .553 Scott .535 Cano .534 Ortiz .529 Wells .515 Swisher .511
In addition to those names, Scott out-slugged Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Evan Longoria.
In terms of Isolated Power (ISO):
AL Leaders in ISO for 2010 ISO Bautista .357 Cabrera .294 Hamilton .274 Konerko .272 Ortiz .259 Scott .251 Wells .242 Quentin .236 Rodriguez .236 Beltre .233
Scott also posted an ISO higher than Teixeira, Longoria, Robinson Cano and Carlos Pena.
So, 6th in the league in both stats that evaluate power, finishing ahead of many hitters that would universally be considered middle-of-the-order bats. The Orioles did not lack a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat in 2010...they had one of the best in the league.
But the word still hasn't managed to get out...so I guess I'm going to have to keep beating this dead horse until it does.