I’ll admit, I wasn’t all that high on Robby Scott coming into the season. I thought he should start the year in Triple-A — with the assumption that they weren’t going to cut Fernando Abad loose — and that him being anything more than an up-and-down lefty was indicative of the lack of left-handed relief talent in the organization. The stuff doesn’t really jump out at you, and like Tommy Layne before him it doesn’t really make sense that he has this much success.
About six weeks into the year, I’m starting to come around. Better late than never, I suppose. Scott has emerged as one of John Farrell’s most trusted weapons, appearing in 17 games already this season. He’s certainly earned that trust given his performance in those appearances. Over the ten innings he’s thrown this year — which, obviously is a small sample — he’s pitched to a 0.90 ERA with a 2.23 FIP. He’s locking down lefties and holding his own against righties. Is there any way he can keep this up and remain one of the key arms in the bullpen for the rest of the season?
The easy answer is to simply say no. Beyond the lack of eye-popping stuff — which is almost mandatory out of the bullpen in today’s reliever-heavy game — the secondary numbers don’t paint a great picture. The FIP is good, but it’s mostly thanks to the fact that he hasn’t allowed any home runs. So far this year, Scott is striking out fewer than eight batters per nine innings and is walking fewer than three. Both of those rates are fine if they are paired with an elite counterpart, but together they are unimpressive. Largely because of that, I’d imagine, Scott is pitching to a poor DRA (5.14, roughly 13 percent worse than league average) and cFIP (121, or 21 percent worse than league average).
Of course, it’s not that simple. Sure, he’s being helped out by a complete lack of home runs and a .160 batting average on balls in play. Neither of those rates are going to keep up. With that being said, there is reason to believe he can keep both on the lower end of the spectrum.
The lack of home runs is especially sustainable, given the fact that Scott is inducing ground balls 60 percent of the time this season, per Baseball Prospectus. Eventually, a couple of the few fly balls he allows will find their way over the fence, but keeping the ball on the ground is a good way to prevent homers. It also helps that he mainly faces left-handed hitters, since the right side of Boston’s infield with Dustin Pedroia and Mitch Moreland is such a strong duo. They should steal plenty of hits from lefties and help keep his BABIP in the .200’s. It is worth noting that opposing lefties are pulling the ball 54 percent of the time and hitting grounders 61.5 percent of the time, per Fangraphs.
That has been part of the reason Scott has been so dominant against lefties this season. In 19 plate appearances, opposing lefties are hitting .056/.105/.059 against the former undrafted free agent. Once again, an absurdly low BABIP (.077) is a huge driving force behind this small sample succes. It is worth noting, though, that his strikeout rate climbs all the way to 26 percent against lefties compared to 17 percent against righties. Likewise, he walks just five percent of lefties compared to 12 percent of righties.
It’s those rates against righties that give me pause against Scott, though. So far this year, he has faced almost as many righties as lefties (19 LHH and 17 RHH), and that does not seem like the best use of his services. It’s easier said than done to use a pitcher as a legitimate LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy), but that is the ideal role for Scott.
Ultimately, I still believe he is better served as the secondary lefty on the roster, with an arm with more stuff that can play up against hitters of either handedness needed in front of him. Clearly, those kind of pitchers aren’t easy to find, but the Red Sox might have one in Robbie Ross. It’s worth noting, of course, that Ross has somehow lost the trust of the organization already, getting sent down to Triple-A earlier in the season. If they still don’t believe in Ross, Abad isn’t well suited for this role either, meaning they may have to look outside the organization. With the prices on relievers at the trade deadline, they have to hope I’m wrong about Scott once again. Luckily, that’s starting to become a trend.
What do you think? Is Scott good enough to remain the top lefty for the entire season?