Thursday, August 5, 2010

Luke Scott: An Appreciation

Luke Scott has been under appreciated throughout his career.

Cleveland traded him as a minor league for pitcher Jeriome Robertson, a 26-year-old with a 5.18 ERA over 43 career games up to that point. He proceeded to hit like crazy in the Houston system. The Astros saw him as a platoon player only (even though his career splits were not crazy: .875 OPS against righties, .793 vs lefties) and threw him in as one of 5 players sent to Baltimore in the original Miguel Tejada deal.

Even after Scott had proved himself as a legitimate slugger (if a flawed overall hitter) with Baltimore, was he given the role of cleanup hitter in 2010? No. Coming into the season, Tejada was given that job, despite years of declining power.

What? You doubt he was a legitimate slugger? From 2008 through today, Scott has the 10th best ISO in the American League, right behind Evan Longoria, just ahead of Justin Morneau. He's 12th in slugging, tied with Shin-Soo Choo, just ahead of Paul Konerko.

But he is never mentioned with those players. Again, much of that has to do with the fact that he doesn't hit for a great average and hasn't ever hit more than 25 homers (although that looks to change this year). But he has led the Orioles in slugging over for the past three seasons, yet has batted cleanup only 49 times in his career (including the last 15 games for Baltimore).

In the absence of a Prince Fielder or an Adrian Gonzalez on this team, Scott should have been the obvious choice but was overlooked.

Chris Jaffe wrote an article for The Hardball Times (at the prompting of Dan from Camden Crazies) examining Buck Showalter and his manging style. This in particular jumped out at me:

Also, it's especially important that he get such good OBP from his table setters, because if there's one thing his teams have been good at over the years, it's slugging the ball. Twice a Showalter-managed team led the league is Isolated Power, on two other occasions they finished second, in a fifth year they came in third, and in two more campaigns they came in fourth. Not bad for an 11-year haul.

Thinking it through, there's a clear theme to everything above, a theme that represents Showalter's offensive philosophy. He isn't playing for one run at a time, but prefers going for the big inning. To that end, he'll try to put good OBP at the top of the order so his big boppers can drive runners in...

I don't want to overstate my case. Showalter's no magician who automatically makes everyone a better power hitter (Soriano, most notably, did not improve under him). My point is much simpler. Baseball can be like any other workspace in that employees respond to items their boss pays more attention to. 

Buck is going to find a way to keep his power bats in the lineup. I have a feeling that if Showalter had been hired in the offseason, Scott would have been given every chance to win the first base job instead of being relegated to DH by default. Scott won't be overlooked again...not while Buck is the manager.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been a Luke fan since his time at Round Rock in the Astros system. I've followed his career pretty closely, and I, too, have often wondered why he didn't get more recognition. Sure, he can be streaky, but when his bat is hot, he's about as good as they get.

Great article, keep up the good work.