Halfway into the 2009 season, the Baltimore Orioles outfield trio of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold are getting a lot of credit. However, it's 31-year old designated hitter Luke Scott who is also deserving of credit. Scott, born on June 25, 1978 in De Leon Springs, Florida, has become a fan favorite in Baltimore.
Whenever Luke bats at home, fans chant "LUUUUKE" in unison. And so far in the 2009 season, he's responded to the fan acceptance. He missed 21 games due to an injury, but in 64 games, he has 17 home runs, 50 RBI, a .304 average, .386 on base percentage, and .589 slugging average. Throughout the 2008 season, he showcased power, slugging a career high 23 homers.
However, his consistency irked fans. At one point in late April of 2008, he was hitting .361 with one homer and eight RBI. He was hitting for a very high average, but wasn't as productive as the O's would prefer. That's when Scott began to slump. He went 5-for-32 to finish the month, and because he started so well, his average still sat at .281. However, he hurt his numbers in May, going 14-for-66 (.212), and while he hit four homers, at the end of the month, his average sat at a meager .252.
They were starting to see power, but that's about it. However, so far in the 2009 season, fans are seeing power and consistency. After a slow start to the year (.190 in first six games), he finished April with a .260 average, three homers, and 11 RBI. But this was just the beginning. He lit it up the first few days of May, raising his clip to .303, and slugging two more homers, giving him five through May 10th. However, an injury in a 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees sidelined him until May 27th, when he returned against the Toronto Blue Jays. And boy, did he return very well.
In his first at bat, he would face Roy Halladay. Welcome back to the major leagues, Mr. Scott. However, Luke has a good history against "Doc", not something many guys can say, and crushed a two-run homer to deep center. It was the start of a home run tear. In dramatic fashion, the O's won the game, 12-10, and over the next eight games, Scott was 10-for-27 (.370) with seven home runs, 15 RBI, and raised his average to .323.
Scott stopped hitting the ball out of the park at such a mad pace, but who could expect he'd keep that up? However, one thing that was clearly different for Scott: he was still hitting the ball hard. While he's not hitting .323, .304 is hardly a batting average to sneeze at. In fact, it's second on the O's, a very good hitting team, behind only All Star center fielder Adam Jones.
In a 12-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on July 7th, Scott had the game of his life. In his first at bat, he came up with the bases loaded and two out against Erik Bedard, and on an 0-2 pitch, singled two runs in. Later in the game, in the sixth inning, Scott hit a laser over center fielder Franklin Gutierrez' head, driving in two more runs, and getting a triple. In his next at bat, with the game virtually over in a 9-3 game which the O's led, Scott tattooed a three-run homer to right field, giving him seven RBI on the night.
In the game, he went 3-for-4 with a home run, triple, and single, falling just a double short of the cycle, something he accomplished with the Astros as a rookie. The Luke Scott of 2008 would come back the next game and go 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. Scott didn't follow it up with a superb game, but he went 1-for-4 with a walk, and even singled during a ninth inning rally that gave the O's a 5-3 win over the M's.
If you compare Scott to other designated hitters throughout the American League, the 31-year old is superior in most major offensive categories. He has 17 homers (2nd), 50 RBI (1st), .304 average (2nd), a .386 OBP (1st), .589 slugging average (1st), and a .975 OPS (1st). If the All Star Game was an American League ballpark this year, believe that Luke Scott would be representing the AL as the starting designated hitter. And Scott is second behind Adam Lind in homers and Jason Kubel in RBI, both guys who don't play DH full time.
While the outfield trio the O's currently have deserves all the credit thrown at them, Scott is having a tremendous year. Nolan Reimold is certainly a Rookie of the Year Candidate. Adam Jones is having a fantastic year and is headed to the All Star Game. Nick Markakis is quietly on pace for a 100+ RBI season. Luke, on the other hand, is on pace for 37 home runs, and 110 RBI, which would lead the team in both categories - and pretty easily, at that. Some credit his approach at the plate.
"He's got a great swing," hitting coach Terry Crowley said. "He's one of the strongest guys in baseball. All great hitters try to wait on the ball and have it come to us, stay short [with the swing] and be aggressive late." Luke has been involved in trade talks throughout his entire career. The reason for that is yet to be determined. Some fans would like to trade Scott for prospects, or a proven major league pitcher, something the O's need.
However, team president Andy MacPhail has said multiple times the O's likely won't look to trade him. And why would they? Scott is in just his second full season with considerable playing time, and so far, is the most productive DH in the AL.