It was almost impossible to watch. From 2006 to 2010, Luke Scott was a very good player, managing a .272/.357/.512 line (126 OPS+) with 103 home runs while playing for the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles. 2011 was a down year for Scott, marred by shoulder injuries that sidelined him most of the year and eventually led to surgery. The Rays signed him for 2012 hoping that with Scott healthy, he was primed to return to his 2006 to 2010 levels. Instead, they got the exact opposite. From June 1st to July 6th (with missed time from back spasms mixed in), Scott had a stretch where he went 0 for 41, the worst stretch in Rays history. On July 6th, his batting line was just .194/.252/.383, and Scott said that “if he wasn’t a Christian, he’d be an alcoholic.” But from then on, everything changed. From July 7th until the end of the season, Scott managed a .296/.347/.546 line with 13 doubles, 4 homers, and 17 RBI in 118 plate appearances. And it will be those plate appearances that the Rays hope Scott can build on as they bring him back on a 1-year deal for 2013 (terms of the deal have yet to be announced).
Scott’s final 2012 numbers were pretty respectable when you consider just how low he had fallen in the middle of the year. He managed a .229/.285/.439 line with 22 doubles, 14 homers, and 55 RBI in 96 games and 344 plate appearances. And there are two big reasons to think that he can do better. The first is that Scott was never really healthy in 2012. Scott was a primary DH three of the last four years, but the fact that the Rays only trusted him enough defensively to play just 6 games in the field tells you a lot about how much he was hurting. Scott also dealt with a pair of other injuries, back spasms and an oblique strain, and those certainly didn’t help matters at all, but it was that overarching shoulder injury that really limited what Scott could do all season. The other thing was that 2012 was a major outlier for Scott in terms of plate discipline. From 2006 to 2010, Scott walked more than half as much as he struck out each season. In 2011, even as injuries dragged hm down, his strikeout to walk ratio was still a solid 54-24. But in 2012, he slipped all the way down to 80-21. What in the world happened? The easiest answer is frustration, but that isn’t entirely true. Even when Scott got off to a nice start in April, managing a .266/.319/.394 line with 6 doubles, 5 homers, and 17 RBI in 69 plate appearances, his strikeout to walk ratio was just 13-4. What was working for Scott at the beginning of the season was being aggressive early in the count and just finding a pitch he could put a good swing on. When he began to falter, he kept up the same type of strategy but took it to the extreme, swinging at everything and seemingly connecting with nothing. But when he got back on track, he still only managed a 33-9 strikeout to walk ratio from July 7th to the end of the year.
Scott is a player who seems to start of seasons more aggressively than he has been otherwise. In 2010 for instance, his strikeout to walk ratio was just 35-14 in April and May, but he improved it to 63-45 the rest of the year. Scott has shown an ability to make adjustments as necessary as the season progresses. In 2012, he never got a chance. Right when he was getting ready to adjust his approach, his huge slump began, and even once it ended he was so desperate to keep himself going strong and prevent himself from slipping back into his slump levels that he just kept doing whatever was working. In 2013, though, Scott has a fresh start and should finally be able to relax and conduct himself like it’s any other season. His shoulder injury is a thing of the past and the pressure of spending his first season with a new team his gone. And the Rays hope that this time around he’ll be able to hit just as well as they know he can.
Luke Scott’s 2012 season was aberrant no matter how you look at it. He entered the year with a preexisting injury that never really got better, suffered through terrible luck to lead to one of the worst stretches in baseball history, and could never really find his stroke all year. And despite all of that, Scott was not that bad, managing an OPS+ above league-average and slamming 14 home runs in 344 PA’s. Scott’s debut season in Tampa Bay didn’t go nearly as well as everyone hoped. But in 2013, the Rays are sure that Scott will be able to turn the page and rediscover everything that made him an excellent hitter as three years ago and can make him an above-average hitter once again.