It seems like anytime I sit down to write about Luke Scott, I feel compelled to defend him.
This is because the Oriole fan base still underestimates him and they fail to understand what a good hitter he is. The Vladimir Guerrero signing has highlighted this fact yet again. When debating the relative merits of the two players, I was told that I was "way overvaluing Luke Scott" (even though over the past 3 seasons, Scott and Guerrero have exactly the same .845 OPS and that Scott has a better park-adjusted OPS+, 122 vs 121, than Vlad) and that Luke did not "significantly outperform" Vlad in 2010 (even though Scott posted a .902 OPS while Guerrero put up an .841 OPS. I'd call that significant). Just when I thought it was impossible, Luke Scott is getting even less respect than he ever has, even after his best season to date. He's quickly becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball.
I won't even address the assertion that signing Vladimir Guerrero "gives the O's a legitimate clean up hitter which the Orioles have NOT had since Palmeiro" (yes, these are all actual quotes) since I already have, a couple of times. Scott was one of the premier cleanup hitters in the American League last season. Period.
But since people are quick to dismiss 2010 as Scott's career year, a performance that he won't be able to repeat...fine. One year means nothing. Evidently, three years means little as well. So let's go back five seasons and see how Luke stacks up.
Looking at all qualified MLB batters over the past five seasons, Scott ranks 27th in slugging and 17th in Isolated Power. That puts him just on the cusp of all the elite power hitters in the game. And he has sustained it for five seasons.
I'm going to quote The Hardball Times' Steve Treder once again as he gives a wonderful definition of the cleanup hitter:
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.
Sounds like Luke Scott to me.
For the past 5 seasons:
AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ ISO 2B HR Luke Scott 2006-2010 .272 .357 .512 .869 126 .241 131 103
Pretty nice numbers, huh?
I think it's safe to say that Scott is a good bet to at least slug .500 and get on base at a .350 clip. That's a nice floor for a player who continues to be better than anyone will give him credit for.
So if you want to give Mr. Guerrero the label of "legitimate cleanup hitter", that just fine. But just know that now the Orioles have two of them.