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2017 Red Sox Review: Robby Scott

A look back at the year that was for the lefty specialist

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Welcome to the Red Sox Review series. It’s a fairly standard feature in which we will review the year that was for every player who made a decently large impact on the Red Sox this year. How do I come up with that definition? Completely arbitrarily, of course! The list of players I’m using can be seen here, and if I am missing anyone please let me know in the comments. Anyway, for the players who are included we will look at the positives of their 2017, the negatives, review their One Big Question from the preseason and look ahead to what’s on the table for 2018. Today, we discuss Robby Scott.

The Positives

Robby Scott is one of those players that is never going to be the headliner of any team, and only the most unique among him will claim the lefty as their best player. That being said, he’s come a long way from where most thought he’d be at this point as a former Indy Ball pitcher. This past season was another major step forward for the southpaw, and for much of the year he was the most trusted lefty in Boston’s bullpen. Granted, there wasn’t a ton of competition, but again, he was never supposed to make it that far. That alone is a positive for him.

If you want to get into real numbers and performance, then you needn’t look any further than how he did against lefties. Scott, of course, is a left-handed specialist, so if he couldn’t shut down opposing lefties he’d be out of a job. Still, he did so to a tremendous degree. He faced 76 lefties over the course of the season and held them to a .121/.224/.303 line while striking out a quarter of them.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond simply shutting down lefties, another big job of a specialist like Scott is coming into tough situations and getting out of it. When you only face one or two batters every time you come in, there’s a good chance you’ll be inheriting plenty of runners on the bases and it’s your job to make sure they don’t score. In 2017, only seven pitchers inherited more runners than Scott’s 50. Of those 50 runners, only 11 scored for a rate of 22 percent. Among the 74 pitchers who inherited at least 30 runners this year, only 21 prevented them from scoring at a better rate.

Scott was also strong in a few other less significant splits. For one thing, he was really great at Fenway, holding batters to a .427 OPS at home. Additionally, he went on a couple of strong runs to start the year and to end it. Over his first 23 appearances, he pitched to a 1.43 ERA while holding opponents to a .397 OPS. Then, in his last 15 appearances of the regular season, he held opponents to a .407 ERA (though he did pitch to an ERA above 3.00 due to one rough outing.

The Negatives

Although Scott did very well in his specified role in 2017, he didn’t quite take the step forward and perform like a team would ideally like their top lefty to pitch. He certainly could have been much worse, but his performance against righties really limits him in a way that makes it tough to rely on him as an important piece of the bullpen. While he was great against lefties, he allowed an .814 to righties that was largely the result of a .245 Isolated Power from his opponents. He is, simply put, too hittable for hitters from the right side. He can still work as a LOOGY, but preferably the top lefty would be trusted with a righty or two coming up.

There was also the matter of his summer months when he really struggled with the Red Sox. In fact, things got bad enough — and the Red Sox had a bit of a roster crunch, to be fair — that Scott was demoted to Triple-A for a time. That left Fernando Abad as the top lefty, which is a pretty strong statement on their feelings about Scott at the time, even if he did have options. Between June and August, he had a 19-start stretch in which he pitched to a 6.00 ERA while allowing a .955 OPS.

The Big Question

Can Robby Scott grab hold of the second left-handed reliever job?

The answer to this one is no, but only because he did even better and grabbed the number one job in the bullpen. It seems like forever ago at this point, but Robbie Ross was the presumed top lefty in the bullpen to start 2017, but injuries obviously derailed his season. That left it to a battle between Scott and Abad for the top lefty spot, and Scott was the most trusted of the two for the majority of the season.

Looking ahead to 2018

I would be very surprised to hear Scott in trade rumors this year as this team just doesn’t have a lot of left-handed relief depth coming up through the system. Perhaps Henry Owens or Trey Ball can be converted to relief and make the leap they haven’t been able to make as starters, but obviously nobody can assume that will happen. I would imagine that Dave Dombrowski will explore the market for another lefty to pair with Scott, but he is going to be back for another year of LOOGYing in the Boston bullpen.