KPB Blog

Marco Scutaro and Mastering the Strike Zone

By Eric Johnson

Last week, FanGraph’s Dave Cameron came out with an article about San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro, which can help every hitter at every level understand a way to improve his game.

In his article, Mr. Cameron wrote:

“Every fringe prospect, every bench player, every undersized guy in the minors should look to Marco Scutaro as their inspiration. They don’t have to become Marco Scutaro 2.0, but he’s the example of what you can be if you learn how to completely take over the batter/pitcher conflict. Learn the strike zone, study pitchers, swing only at strikes, and good things will happen.”[1]

Over the past five years, Marco Scutaro has decreased his strikeout percentage (number of strikeouts, divided by number of at-bats, multiplied by 100) consistently each year. In contrast, the strikeout percentage among all big leaguers has consistently gone up over that same time period.

Scutaro’s career has also taken off in the past few years, with him leading the Giants to a World Series victory in 2012, and earning a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract this past offseason, at the age of 36.

The reason that Mr. Cameron highlights Scutaro’s numbers is because it shows how Scutaro’s game has evolved far beyond his skill set. He has become an excellent player, and potential All-Star, but is not a toolsy player with the bat. He isn’t exceptionally fast, and can’t hit for power. What he does, is play to his strengths. He has a flat swing, and a great eye – and as a result, he lives within the strike zone, and hits line drives.

So what does that mean for you?

Command of the strike zone is always an option to help you improve your game. If you see yourself as average at the dish, without the tools like power and speed to separate yourself from the pack, start learning the strike zone. This is a skill that not many players take the time to work on and refine. It will take time. Some ideas that might help include standing in on pitcher’s bullpens and tracking pitches, and taking special rounds of BP (with a coach who is on board and willing to help you – otherwise you’ll just tick him off for taking so many pitches) so you can work on your approach and command of the zone.

It’s important to note that command of the zone doesn’t mean you will take a lot of walks. That might be a byproduct, but (as with Marco Scutaro) you may not walk as much because, frankly, pitchers aren’t afraid to pour one down the middle for you. They know you can’t hit it out of the park, so they’re willing to challenge. The key is to put yourself in a position to get these pitches, by working to advantage counts (1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 3-1), and then hitting the pitcher’s challenge.

Check out this article. It’s a little factually dense, but take it slow, and use it as a resource, and a way to help you improve your game. This is a great way to separate yourself from the pack, without having to improve your physical tools.

[1] Cameron, Dave. “The Remarkable Marco Scutaro.” FanGraphs Baseball. N.p., 28 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013.