Unlike the last two posts in this series, the debate over the best contact skills is pretty simple. Actually, there isn’t anything to really debate. The leader for all baseball in contact percentage was Marco Scutaro. He is almost unrivaled at making pure contact and last season was his best ever. Not only did he make contact an astonishing 94.8% of the time, he swung he also had a miniscule 1.9% swing strike percentage. Both were the best in the American League and only Luis Castillo had a lower percentage of swing strikes in all of baseball.
The Red Sox have a number of guys who know how to put the bat on the ball, but there isn’t anyone all that close to Scutaro. Last season V-Mart was in the top ten in both contact percentage and swing strike percentage, but alas he has moved on. The next best contact percentage last season and the only player who really has any shot at rivaling Scutaro in the near future is Dustin Pedroia.
Pedey is fairly awesome at making contact himself, with a contact percentage of 92.1%. That is actually higher than Scutaro’s career percentage, but it doesn’t top either of his last two years or his average over the last four years. Of course, Pedey hits the ball a bit harder than Scutaro, but that is slightly off the point here.
A very distant third in this category goes to Kevin Youkilis. Youk might be know best for his batting eye but doesn’t miss too often when he does swing. His career 83.9% contact rate is fantastic for a player with his power. There are very few players who can combine his patience, contact skills, and power and it is hard to imagine any one getting less national attention with those skills than Youk gets. How does the man remain so constantly underrated?
While contact is certainly an important tool, I think the fact that Scutaro, one of the least valuable hitters among our everyday players last year, has such a dramatic edge in this category really shows just how much more patience and power matter. The days where we can say it is enough to just put the ball in play are over. Scutaro had his best year in 2009 when he had his highest walk percentage and I think that is telling. If he concedes the majority of time at short to Jed Lowrie, Scutaro will be a perfect right-handed bat off the bench. With runners on base, he almost assuredly will make the defense work for the out an sometimes that is exactly what you want a pinch hitter to do.
Next up: best breaking ball