EXTRA BAGGS: Scutaro MLB's best at contact, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Scutaro MLB's best at contact, etc.


SAN FRANCISCO The next time you see Marco Scutaro swingand miss, take stock of the moment. Etch it in your memory. Then understand youarent likely to see it again soon.

Entering Friday nights huge showdown with the Los AngelesDodgers, Scutaro had made contact on 94 percent of strikes thrown to him thisseason. If that sounds exceptionally high, it is.

It leads the major leagues.

Josh Hamilton swings and misses at 31 percent of strikesthrown to him. Even a hitter with such refined skills as Buster Posey swingsand misses at 11 percent of the strikes he sees.

But Scutaro is in another universe. If the ball is anywherebetween the chest and the hollow of the kneecap, and is over any portion of thedish, Scutaro will find a way to put his bat on it.

That is a handy skill for a No. 2 hitter. It gives Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy supreme confidence to put runners in motion. Unless its apitchout, Scutaro will probably advance the runner -- or better yet, move himfrom first to third with one of those flares to right field.

Tim Lincecum might have said it best:

Well, I know I didnt like facing him, he said.

Scutaro smiled when that comment was relayed to him.

I didnt like facing him, either, he said.

When the Giants acquired Scutaro from the Colorado Rockieson July 27, he was a 35-year-old hitting .271 with an unimpressive .684 OPS. Hewas on pace to hit five home runs and drive in fewer than 60. But the Giantskept asking about him; Im told they had asked the Boston Red Sox about tradingfor him over the offseason, too.

Finally, a week ahead of the trade deadline, the Rockiescalled the Giants with a list of names. Scutaro was on it.

The Giants tried not to give away their excitement.

The Rockies only asked for minor leaguer Charlie Culberson,who had long ago lost his shine as a top prospect. Colorado even kicked in500,000 to cover some of the roughly 2 million remaining on Scutaroscontract.

The Giants didnt have to take any high-priced dead weight,as the Dodgers did.

It just goes to show that value doesnt always lie in theritziest players. Not only has Scutaro been a perfect addition for Bochyskeep the line moving offense, but hes come up with some huge hits withrunners on base. You could make the argument that Scutaros approach has rubbedoff on some of his teammates, especially when you think back to the first halfand consider the Giants woeful .225 average with runners in scoring positionprior to the break.

They were 4-for-11 with RISP in a well played, 5-2 victoryover the Dodgers on a rowdy Orange Friday at AT&T Park. And Scutaro, ofcourse, collected the two-out, two-run, tiebreaking single in the seventhinning.

Theyre hitting .311 with RISP since the All-Star break --the best in the majors.

It comes down to making more contact with runners on base,and Scutaro has the stats to prove it: nobody in the major leagues is better atputting the bat on the ball.

Seeing as second base is a wide-open proposition for 2013, it wouldn't be surprising to see Scutaro return on a two-year contract.

There was no crowing in the Giants clubhouse, even thoughtheir 5 12game lead is their largest in the NL West since the final game ofthe 2003 season. (Coincidental note: The pitcher they faced in Game 1 of theNLDS vs. Florida that season, Josh Beckett, was on the mound for the Dodgers Fridaynight.)

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But Scutaro was among several players who noted that theydlove to clinch before setting foot in Dodger Stadium for those final threeregular-season games.

We dont want to go back there those last three games andbe close, Scutaro said.

Added Sergio Romo: Wed like to not necessarily put ourfeet up, because you never can in this game, but wed like to have an idea whatsgoing to happen. It happens so seldom in this game, but thats what we want.

Brandon Crawford had another solid game on both ends, twicegetting on base and scoring runs from second base on singles. But Joaquin Ariaswill be at shortstop against left-hander Chris Capuano on Saturday, Bochy said.

Prior to the game, Bochy said he planned to move bodies inthe late innings and he accomplished it without wasting an extra player. AfterGregor Blanco pinch-ran for Hector Sanchez, Bochy put Blanco in left field,moved Brandon Belt from left to first base and stuck Buster Posey behind theplate.

Blanco stole a base and scored the tiebreaking run, and theGiants improved their defense in at least two spots without going to the bench.All in all, not bad.

Santiago Casilla is recharged and has become a late-inningweapon again. As mentioned in the slideshow I filed earlier today, the Giantsbullpen had struggled against the Dodgers while posting a 5.97 ERA in 12 games.Its on nights like Friday that a closer by committee is really tested. Casillaand Romo made the pitches to nail down a seismic victory.

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.


Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.