2010 Red Sox Preview: Will Marco Scutaro's Skills Translate in Boston?

Jeffrey BrownAnalyst IMarch 7, 2010

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Marco Scutaro #16 of the Boston Red Sox poses during photo day at the Boston Red Sox Spring Training practice facility on February 28, 2010 in Ft. Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

New Boston Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro had a career year last season while playing over the border for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The question that must be asked is whether his 2009 performance will translate into a quality season in his new nation...Red Sox Nation.

Most pundits have projected his numbers will see a significant slide this season, with mean projections somewhere in the order of .270 with eight HR, 60 ribbies, 70 runs, and 10 to 12 stolen bases.

The rationale is that career seasons don’t often happen at age 34 and cannot last.

My gut instinct tells me that the pundits are wrong in most respects. I foresee little or no drop-off in batting average or runs scored, only a slight decrease in HR and RBI, and an increase in stolen bases.

First and foremost, his non-standard offensive metrics demonstrate that he has pretty solid skills, in spite of his relatively pedestrian output prior to 2009...and that may be because a light went on for him over the last couple of seasons.

He seems to have achieved an understanding that parallels the philosophy of the Red Sox organization—that seeing a lot of pitches is beneficial both for the hitter (individually) and the lineup (generally).

Over the course of his career, he’s seen the league-average pitches per plate appearance...but he is in a three-year uptrend, and in two of the last four seasons he has been well above league average. He is able to take pitches because he has a tremendous contact rate (91 percent over his career) and has excellent plate discipline and patience (his walk rate is nearly 10 percent, whereas the league average is nine percent).

Second, his career stats have been diminished due to the fact the ballparks he has called “home” during the last half-dozen seasons are clearly and significantly pitcher’s parks, whereas Fenway Park is just as clearly and significantly a hitter’s park.

Overall, Rogers Centre (TOR) rated as the eighth-best pitcher’s park in baseball. It is also the second-best pitcher’s park in terms of base hits —meaning the hitters who play half their games there have artificially low batting averages. Rogers Centre has a six-plus-percent detrimental effect on runs and a 10-plus-percent adverse effect on base hits.

Meanwhile, Fenway Park is the eighth-best hitters park with a seven-plus-percent beneficial effect on runs. It is almost totally neutral from the standpoint of base hits. Both parks have an adverse effect on home runs, with Scutaro's new home actually being less homer-friendly than Rogers Centre.

Thus, whatever tendency there may be for his performance to trend downwards towards his career norms will be offset by the beneficial effects of moving from Rogers Centre to Fenway Park, although it’s possible that he may only hit nine or 10 home runs at Fenway Park.

Lastly, it appears Scutaro will bat ninth in the Red Sox lineup, batting behind 3B Adrian Beltre and CF Mike Cameron. As they tend to be on-base challenged, he will simply have fewer RBI opportunities—thus my projection that he will garner fewer ribbies.

But he will also be hitting second leadoff...so, it is likely that he will be expected to run more and that he will be on the basepaths with hitters like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Victor Martinez at the plate.

So, what kind of numbers will he put up in 2010? As I’ve mentioned previously in this series, I am not a devotee of the most widely used projection systems: CHONE, Bill James, and PECOTA. They all have problems.

CHONE projections tend to be strong for hitters but weak for pitchers. The PECOTA system has the opposite problem—it is strong for pitchers but weak for hitters. While Bill James is well known and an employee of the Red Sox, his annual projections are consistently overly optimistic.

I prefer the work done by Ron Shandler (who is the godfather of "fanalytics") and Mike Podhorzer (the new kid on the block).

Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster is must-reading for any baseball fan, especially if he/she is a fantasy baseball aficionado. Shandler and his minions do great work. They can be found at BaseballHeadquarters.com .

Podhorzer’s predictions at fantasypros911.com went 42-0 when compared head-to-head with other projection systems last year. Seriously, folks, if you don’t know about fantasypros911.com , it’s time that you take a look. Great stuff!

So what do these two systems project for Pedey for the upcoming season?

Shandler: .273, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 82 R, 9 SB
Podhorzer: .273, 10 HR, 65 RBI, 85 R, 8 SB

As I said earlier, I think it’s likely his batting average and runs scored remain relatively constant, while his stolen bases increase a little and his HR and RBI dip just slightly.

SOX1FAN projection: .280, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 17 SB, 95 R