Trying to find negative story-lines within the Red Sox’ horrific September was about as easy as trying to find trees in the forest. However, trying to find a negative story about Marco Scutaro, in the context of a forest, was like searching for big foot.
Scutaro had an incredible month of September, in which he hit .387/.438/.581 with two home runs, 12 doubles and 21 RBI. He had 22.2 weighted runs created (wRC+) and a .434 weighted on base average (wOBA).
Based on his true talent level, Scutaro was playing well over his head in September, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he did do it, .391 BABIP or not. Those incredible September numbers aided in his .329/.382/.467 post-all-star stat line. The exact opposite happened in 2010, as Scutaro faded in the second half bruised and worn down. He had also faded in the second half of 2009 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 2011 season didn’t start out particularly great for the Sox or for Scutaro. The team struggled out of the gates and Scutaro himself hit .189/.283/.226 in April before he could no longer play through an oblique injury. That injury caused him to miss 26 games from May 8th through June 7th. While he had his ups and downs at the plate through June, July and August, Scutaro continued to get on base, posting OBPs of .365/.345/.313 respecively.
In the field, Scutaro was far from brilliant, but it was sort of what Sox fans expected as Scutaro saw a huge drop in the preseason fan’s scouting report from an overall score of 76 for 2009 to an overall score of 46 for 2010 (keep in mind that he played in Toronto in 2009, so it was an entirely different fanbase doing the scouting). Scutaro comitted 12 errors at short this past season and posted a 0.7 ultimate zone rating (UZR), which would seem like a vast improvement from his -2.9 rating in 2010. His .972 fielding percentage was the eighth worst among 22 qualifying shortstops and his 0.7 UZR ranked him 13 out of those same 22. At times, it seemed as though his arm would just give out on him at any moment; that’s how little juice he had on his throws.
Despite is ineptness in the field, Scutaro put up enough positive offensive numbers to generate 2.9 wins above replacement as calculated at FanGraphs (fWAR). He was definitely worth the $5M the Sox paid him in 2011.
There is a big decision ahead for both Scutaro and the Sox’ front office. His contract holds a $6M club option and a $3M player option ($1.5M buyout). The free agent market at shortstop is thin aside from the top two in Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins and to sign either would require a huge commitment by the front office both in terms of money and years. In that sense, bringing Scutaro back makes a lot of sense. If defense becomes too big of an issue, the club still has slick fielding Jose Iglesias waiting in the wings, though the drop-off ofensively would be substantial.
My guess is that we see Scutaro back in Boston for his age 36 season, though given his age it would be a good idea to have some type of plan-B ready, which could be already in place with Iglesias and/or Jed Lowrie.