Monday, August 20, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #14

Overall: 61-64 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 5-2 (1-0 vs. Tigers, 3-0 vs. White Sox, 1-2 vs. Royals)

I'm going to try and defend Marco Scutaro.

For those of you who don't follow the A's, Scutaro is essentially our own David Eckstein: a perfectly serviceable player who's been tagged with clich├ęd labels like "clutch", "knows how to win" and "knows how to win in the clutch". In fact, to hear some A's fans tell it, Scutaro has "that special something" that magically allows him to raise his game in late inning pressure situations. Perhaps our friends at Baseball-Reference.com can settle this once and for all:

Runners in Scoring Position, 2 Outs (BA/OBP/SLG): .233/.363/.358
Late & Close: .242/.314/.366
Tie Game: .250/.324/.369
Team within 1 Run: .261/.320/.391

Career Overall: .258/.319/.390

(Late & Close are PA in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.)

These numbers underscore the stat-head theory that, while there are clutch hits, "clutch hitting" as a repeatable skill is a myth. Scutaro's "clutch" numbers roughly align with his career numbers, which aren't that great to begin with. In fact, the "clutch numbers" = "career numbers" connection is generally true for most players, good or bad.

Whoops, almost forgot…I'm here to defend Scutaro.

Check out this article from Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.

It seems the A's are planning to phase out Scutaro over the next several weeks, in an effort to see if some younger, cheaper players can fill the same role. Now, as much as this makes sense from both a fiscal (in 2008) and competitive (in 2008) perspective, it highlights one of the things (hell, the thing) I hate most about my favorite team.

The A's do a terrible job of giving opportunities to players who deserve them and, conversely, staying too long with players who don't.

Scutaro is not a great or even good everyday player, but he's a solid back-up infielder who can help the team on the field in the last six weeks of this season and, quite frankly, deserves better than to be stapled to the bench at the expense of "Quadruple-A" players like Donnie Murphy and Jack Hannahan. (Who? Exactly.)

In a very limited number of plate appearances, Scutaro is killing left-handed pitching this year. If the A's want to go in a different direction in 2008, would it be the worst thing in the world to let Scutaro puff up his overall '07 numbers while playing him in a strict platoon down the stretch? A few anonymous kids get most of the ABs, while Scutaro, in theory, can cash in with some National League team smitten with his #8 hitter skill set built on a fluky line against southpaws.

It's a "goodbye" and a "thank you" and a "good luck with the Mets next year" all rolled into one.

Hey, that's as close as a defense for him as you'll get from me.

This Week: at Blue Jays (3), at Devil Rays (4)

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