Sweet In the Middle
For a little pick me up in the middle of the latest Jays’ slide, check out John Dewans’ stat of the week, where the authour of The Fielding Bible gives the nod to the most defensive runs saved so far this year to Aaron Hill (13) – with Marco Scutaro (9) not too far behind.
A couple of weeks ago Dewan ranked the Jays second overall, and I will sing Brian Butterfield’s praises just as loud now as I did then. Hill, ok…we knew he was good as soon as he made us forget the O-dog out there. But Scutaro?! Even if you don’t really believe in the accuracy of these fancy fielding metrics, or this sample size, the very same stats that haven’t liked him at all as long as they’ve been around are suddenly claiming he’s one of the best in the league.
Now if you’re the Precambrian type that can’t quite wrap your head around anything but errors, 1) you don’t read this blog, and 2) he is also leading the majors with 1 error so far after tying the AL record for errors in a game (4) in 2007 and committing 9 in almost an identical number of innings in 2006. And this about-face in sure-handedness and range has come at the age of 32, when no middle infielder has any business at becoming any better at what he does.
If I was a real journalist stretching for a story, I would now say something like “and his added comfort in the field can only have helped his impressive performance at the plate”, implying that his new-found range and batting eye were somehow related. But that would be stupid.
Instead I’ll point out that even after regressing to the mean (i.e. assuming he goes back to playing at his usual level for the rest of the season), ZIPS predicts a .286/.378/.413 batting line from Scoot. How good is a .791 OPS for a shortstop, for a Blue Jays shortstop? Only one other Blue Jays SS in history has played 100 games and had a higher one (.805) . That was Tony Fernandez in 1987, the best offensive year of his career.
ETA: And Butterfield knows it, too: “In my mind right now he’s the best defensive shortstop in the American League and by quite a wide margin. … He’s been phenomenal, our MVP,” Butterfield said.”