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May 28, 2013

Punk Hits

Marco Scutaro Plays All the Hits

by Ian Miller


Marco Scutaro rode a lot of buses before he ever sniffed the big leagues. After being signed by the Indians in 1994, he played six full seasons in the minors. Then there were cups of coffee with the Mets in 2002 and 2003, but Scutaro didn’t get a shot to play every day until Oakland picked him up prior to the 2004 season, when he was already 28. In four seasons with Oakland, he showed glimpses of the player he might become, including a .269 True Average in 2006. He was never flashy, but he was an integral part of the A’s playoff run that year, a super-utilityman who played significant time at all non-first-base infield positions.

Now, at age 37, when most players are well into decline or out of the game altogether, Marco Scutaro is arguably in the prime of his career. After a terrible first month, during which Scutaro now admits he was suffering from a bad back, he caught fire. He put together a 19-game hitting streak, during which he hit .481. He’s worked just 12 walks this year, but he’s also struck out just 13 times. Scutaro’s current TAv is .294, and he’s already accrued 1.0 WARP in just 46 games.

I made the four-mile journey from my house to the O.co Coliseum to talk to Marco when his current team visited his former team for the Bay Bridge interleague series. He returned to Oakland as a conquering hero, a member of the world champions and MVP of the National League Championship Series.

There are quite a few former Athletics on this Giants team: I watched Chad Gaudin and Barry Zito reunite with broadcasters and clubbies, all smiles and hail-fellows. Scutaro was as unassuming in his interactions as he is at the plate; he greeted an Oakland groundskeeper warmly after batting practice, and then apologized to me for keeping me waiting for our scheduled interview. 

As a hitter, his plate discipline and contact rates have become the stuff of legend. So far this season, he’s got the fifth-lowest out-of-zone swing rate in the majors at 19.9 percent, and his career rate is even lower: 17.6 percent. I asked Scutaro how he developed such a discerning eye.

“When your mechanics are fine,” he told me, “you have a chance to lay off bad pitches and attack good pitches. Over the years, I’ve just learned what my game is. I’m not a power hitter or an RBI guy, so my game is to get on base and try and be consistent.”

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