The San Francisco Giants need to overachieve in order to win their third championship in five seasons in 2014, and second baseman Marco Scutaro is the most vital component of their impending success.
The 2012 NLCS MVP silently posted respectable numbers last season despite missing substantial time due to injury. Scutaro recorded a .357 on-base percentage with 57 runs scored in 127 games during the 2013 season. His contact rate remains immensely impressive as he struck out just 34 times in 488 official at-bats in his first full season with the Giants.
It isn’t likely for Scutaro to repeat the ridiculous run he had with San Francisco in 2012 when he posted a .362 batting average in 61 games, but he remains the Giants’ x-factor nonetheless. If Scutaro is continuously able to complement Angel Pagan at the top of the lineup and help set the table, the Giants have an outstanding chance of improving their average run production in 2014.
Scutaro isn’t the type of hitter that will consistently post impressive run-producing numbers, but constantly forces opposing pitchers to work deep into the count and often reaches base. He’s also effective in clutch situations, posting a .289 batting average with two outs and RISP in 2012, and a .353 on-base percentage in similar situations last season.
As a team, the Giants typically struggle in clutch situations, often leaving runners aboard with two outs. If Scutaro is able to stay on the field in 2014, the Giants will not only flood the bases more often, but also have another dependable clutch hitter in the lineup.
Scutaro suffered a grotesque pinkie injury on his glove hand last season, preventing him from playing high-caliber defense and also from wrapping his top hand around the bat at the plate. At 38-years old, Scutaro will use Spring Training to reacclimate himself with the basics of fielding. He’s simply not the type of player that needs extensive repetition to reach his peak potential.
The Giants should take note, though. If Scutaro is unable to rekindle the type of success he’s enjoyed over 1.5 seasons in a Giants’ uniform, the team will inevitably fail to win the NL West. Scutaro is that important to the Giants’ success.
San Francisco would not have won the 2012 World Series if it weren’t for Scutaro playing out of his mind. The one-time All-Star is nearing the end of the line. The new season presents an opportunity for Scutaro to solidify his legacy as a contributing component on an offensively-challenged championship team.
As the Giants drowned in a downpour last season, their x-factor had time to recuperate and prepare for the offseason. Now, Scutaro has a chance to reassert himself as the most underrated player in baseball.