Streaky. That's the word you hear most often in regard to Luke Scott. Search "Luke streaky" and "Scott streaky" here on Camden Chat and you'll find over sixty results. A google search of the same turns up hundreds of relevant web pages. And while we've all seen him spend a week or two so locked in that it appears he can't miss, the 2010 version of Luke Scott hasn't been very streaky at all. In fact, since slumping in April, Scott has been quite good, and he's just gotten better as the season goes on.
Scott's 2009 season was really broken down into two distinct parts. Before the All-Star break he was great, hitting .305/.384/.592 with eighteen home runs and eleven doubles. Post All-Star break was a different story: .208/.292/.375 with seven home runs and fifteen doubles. What happened to Scott in the second half of 2009 wasn't a streak, it was a half-season slump. A serious slump. So when he started 2010 ice cold, it was hard not to wonder if he would recover. Of course, we all remember the first month of 2010. The Orioles couldn't score runs, no one was producing. But unlike Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, Luke Scott isn't a promising 24 year old. He is 32, an age when most players are beginning to decline.
Prior to the Orioles May 4th game against the New York Yankees, The Sun ran an article on Scott's troubles at the plate and his frustration was on full display. He admitted that he had no idea what to do, that no matter what he tried he just couldn't shake it. That night the Orioles lost to the Yankees 4-1 and Scott went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. It dropped his batting line to .177/.253/.354 and put him one bad game from having a sub-.600 OPS. The next day, as Scott sat on the bench rather than face Andy Pettitte, FanGraphs released its own article on him, one that preached patience based on the relative stability of many of his statistics, saying it was a matter of time before things turned around:
Scott’s batted ball profile is also roughly the same as always, with a slightly lower HR/FB ratio than in the past, which partly explains his lower isolated power. Scott’s never been reliant on a high BABIP, with a career BABIP under .300, but his current .208 average on balls in play is clearly founded on a whole lot of bad luck.
The Orioles as a whole have been terrible so far this season, just like Scott, but, like Scott, they aren’t as bad as they’ve looked.
[W]hether it’s for the Orioles or for some other team, the "secret" to Scott coming out of his struggles seems to be to wait around for his luck to even out.
It was easy to look at the same numbers they used at FanGraphs and see why they said what they did, but watching him had gotten so brutal that it didn't give me much hope. Scott, meanwhile, remained on the bench for two more games, finally getting back into the lineup in game two of a doubleheader against the Twins on May 8th. And that is when, for some reason, he started getting better. He had just one hit that night, a home run, but it kicked off a reversal of fortune on his 2010 season, a season that has turned out to be the best he's ever had.
Scott's OPS was never again in danger of dropping below .600. In fact, it took him just three more games in which he had two singles, a double, and two home runs to push it up above .700 for good, and five more after that to take it above .800. It appears that not only was the FanGraphs assessment right, it was extremely timely.
On June 1st the Orioles met the Yankees again, this time with a brand new Luke Scott. In the four weeks since that zero hit, two strikeout game, Scott had raised his OPB 87 points to .340 and his SLG 167 points to .521. He went 4-for-10 in the series with two doubles, a home run, and a walk. He leveled out in June, setting in with an OBP between .340 and .350 and SLG in the low .500s. By June 30th Scott had become arguably the best hitter on the team, which made it that much more disappointing when he landed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
At the time of his injury, Scott had twelve home runs and seventeen doubles to go with a .348 OBP and a .520 SLG. His replacements in the lineup were Corey Patterson, Jake Fox, and Josh Bell, who as a group went 14-for-59 with two home runs, one double, and three walks (.237/.274/.305). It wasn't pretty.
Since his return from the DL on July 19th, Scott has been even better than he was before, hitting five doubles and eight home runs in twenty games. His home run on August 4th was his twentieth of the year, giving him three straight seasons with at least that many. His OPS topped .900 on July 23rd and he is current hitting .291/.354/.570/.924. Additionally, his .392 wOBA , 18.9 wRAA, 147 wRC+, and .282 ISO are all tops on the Orioles as well as every AL player with at least 250 plate appearances at DH.
While you can't discount his struggles over the first month of the season, especially since the struggling team needed his bat more than ever, it's clear now that it was simply a slump. Not a decline, a run-of-the-mill slump. During that slump, which spanned the Orioles first 27 games (in which he played 24), Scott had just one multi-hit game and only reached base more than once in a game seven times. In half of his games he didn't get on base at all.
Since May 4th, however, Luke has reached base in 50 out of 61 games (82%). He's been on base more than once in a game 31 times, or 55.7%. He has gone back-to-back games without reaching base just three times.
Luke Scott has been one of my favorite players since he arrived in Baltimore. In addition to his talent on the field, he seems to be one of the friendlier and more charming guys on the team. He signs autographs before almost every game, he has a smile for everyone, and when the game starts he hits ridiculous home runs onto the flag court and Eutaw Street. Despite all that, I had hoped he would be traded before July 31st. I never seriously thought that he would be, but it's hard to imagine his stock being higher than it was at the trade deadline. He still has two years until he is a free agent, his contract is good for the level of production he brings, and let's face it, the second half of 2009 could happen again. I have heard Andy MacPhail quoted as saying that he'd rather make a decision a little too early than a little too late, and I hope he doesn't end up too late when it comes to getting a player or two for Luke Scott.
I often feel as though I'm two fans at once when it comes to the team. The fan that watches every game and writes about them here is very appreciative to have Luke Scott in the lineup. If he left Corey Patterson would probably be the designated hitter, and not many things could be more pathetic than that. But the other fan, the one that is desperate to see a winning team in the future, wonders if holding on to Scott hurts the team long term more than it helps. At this point there is no way he would pass through waivers, so barring a trade with the team that claims him, Scott will be with the Orioles at least through the end of this season. So I'll just enjoy his awesomeness and hope he gets traded for something good in December.