Calculating the (expected) loss of Marco Scutaro

Not pictured: functional back

It's nearing the middle of March, and Marco Scutaro has yet to swing a bat. Oh, the Giants say he's fine and things will work out. But somewhere in the back of my mind, Mark DeRosa just flapped an opposite-field single. The Giants -- and I could be making stuff up here -- seem notoriously bad at downplaying injured players. It's not that the team is a bunch of fibbing fibbers, but recent trips down "Oh, it's totally normal that we're hiding Brian Wilson on the back of spring training fields. There's nothing to worry about at all" lane spark my distrust.

Plus, Scutaro is 38 years old and a second baseman. That's like 150 in people years.

In case Scutaro misses time to start the season -- or during the season -- the Giants essentially have three in-house options to play second: Tony Abreu, Joaquin Arias, and Ehire Adrianza. Both Abreu and Adrianza are roster decisions that'll be made this spring, but if the team has to place Scutaro on the DL to start the season, both could find their way to the Opening Day roster.

So here's what I did: I took Scutaro's projected WAR, by using ZiPS, per 600 plate appearances - which projects him as a two-win player - and compared him to Abreu, Arias, and Adrianza in case they have to account for some of his playing time at second base. For example, if you look at the data table below, you can see how many wins the Giants would lose if Scutaro could only play for 300 PAs and the Giants used Tony Abreu to fill in. (Answer: -0.8 wins.)

Marco Plays (PA)

Tony Abreu

Joaquin Arias

Ehire Adrianza

600

0.0

0.0

0.0

500

-0.3

-0.2

-0.2

400

-0.6

-0.3

-0.3

300

-0.8

-0.5

-0.5

200

-1.1

-0.6

-0.6

100

-1.4

-0.8

-0.8

0

-1.7

-1.0

-0.9


Abreu is a career 74 wRC+ batter in the majors with average-ish defense at non-SS positions. Joaquin Arias is a career 81 wRC+ batter with a similar defensive profile, though I have to imagine that his defense grades out a little better due to his solid play at third base. Ehire Adrianza is a career .248/.335/.344 batter ... in the minors. However, his defense is easily the best of the bunch.

Back to the table, you can see that the difference over a full season - as defined as 600 PAs at the position - between Scutaro and Abreu is -1.7 wins - which is a pretty big hit to take. The difference between Scutaro and Arias/Adrianza is a little less damaging at -1 win. You can see the various permutations among the different players by looking at the table. I'd say the breakeven point for Sctuaro this year is around 300 PAs, more missed time than that and things start getting a little hairy with the current roster as constructed.

Given that the projected standings for the division are fairly tight - even if the Giants are clearly behind the Dodgers at this point - the team really can't afford to lose wins here or there. Given Scutaro's age and historic precedents for second basemen aging poorly*, one could argue that the front office hasn't done enough to protect the team from a prolonged Scutaro absence. (Emilio Bonifacio made a good bit of sense before he signed with the Cubs.)

For now, it looks like Scutaro's health could be a recurring theme this year.

(*FYI: Since 1961, only 16 age-38 or older second basemen have accrued at least 300 or more PAs in a season. Joe Morgan did it three times. Jeff Kent did it three times. Craig Biggio did it three times. We're doomed.)

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