Once again, Scooter Gennett is defying expectations. The diminutive 24-year old, former 16th round draft pick has been ridiculously good recently. In the 30 days prior to Sunday’s game, Scooter’s 1.033 OPS is the seventh best in baseball. Bested only by:
Scooter’s recent surge has raised his season’s stats to .311 AVG / .820 OPS / 122 wRC+. Scooter has earned his playing time but giving him the majority of PAs at second base benefits the Brewers in two ways. First, the Brewers seem intent on making sure Rickie Weeks doesn’t receive the PAs necessary (600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-2014) for his $11.5M team option to trigger in 2015. That means that Scooter is the Brewers’ future at second base.
Second, if you consider that point above, the more PAs accumulated now, the more accurately the team can judge how Scooter’s abilities will play in the long term. A larger sample size of PAs and balls in play (BIP) should result in more accurate predictions of his potential. Across two seasons, Scooter Gennett has played in 137 games, made 477 PA, and put 371 balls in play. So what can the Brewers learn about Scooter from less than a season’s worth of stats? Probably more than you think.
Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus addressed this issue in 2012. Simply by using a split-half reliability study, Carleton determined when volatile, “small sample sizes” stopped tipping the scales and a stat became “stable”. To quote Carleton, “The idea was that over time, a statistic becomes more and more “stable”, meaning that it becomes a better indicator of his true talent level over that time frame.”
So has Scooter’s recent hot streak juiced his overall numbers because of their small sample size? Well, the answer is both yes and no. The results of Carleton’s study can be found in his initial piece and also here on Fangraphs. Scooter has reached the stabilization point on a fair amount of his offensive stats. I’ll list them below then dive into what we can learn from them.
|Stat||Stabilization #||Scooter’s #||Scooter’s Stat|
|OBP||460 PA||477 PA||.352 OBP|
|SLG||320 AB||438 AB||.475 SLG|
|ISO||160 AB||438 AB||.158 SLG|
|K%||60 PA||477 PA||17.0 K%|
|B%||120 PA||477 PA||5.0 BB%|
|HR%||170 PA||477 PA||2.1 HR%|
|GB%||80 BIP||371 BIP||40.6 GB%|
|FB%||80 BIP||371 BIP||35.3 FB%|
|HR/FB||50 FB||116 FB||8.1% HR/FB|
These are the outlines of the professional player Scooter is turning into. The metrics give us a hint at the kind of on-base skills, plate discipline, power, and batted ball skills Scooter has shown so far.
Scooter’s .352 OBP / .475 SLG / .158 ISO are all above average for second basemen. Even if those numbers regress, Scooter can provide a positive offensive impact from that position. The key has been, and will continue to be, his good bat-to-ball skills, which are vital considering his plate discipline. Scooter’s 5.0 BB% won’t give him much help in the OBP department. We can hope his strike zone discrimination improves with experience, but his minor league track record corresponds with his major league performance. If there’s an uptick in walks, don’t expect it to be too drastic.
One piece of good news is that, at only 24, Scooter is still a few years away from his power peak. If you follow J.P. Breen on Twitter, then you might have seen this from him after Scooter launched a long home run against Arizona –
Talked to scout two years ago who swore Scooter Gennett would eventually hit 10-to-15 HRs per year w/ regularity. That was a shot. #Brewers
— J.P. Breen (@JP_Breen) June 17, 2014
Scooter’s stabilized home run and BIP stats suggest the same thing. I looked for players with comparable BIP and home run rate stats from last season then looked at how many home runs they hit. In 2013, Joe Mauer had a 2.2 HR% over 508 PA. That resulted in a 11 HR season. Looking through the lens of Scooter’s BIP rates, Pablo Sandoval is a good comp from last year. In 584 PA, Sandoval had a 41.5 GB% / 37.3 FB%, / 8.3 HR/FB. All very similar rates to what Scooter has posted so far. Sandoval’s BIP rates produced a 14 HR season. So don’t expect a ton of power from Scooter going forward, but also don’t be surprised to see him regularly reach double digits in the home run department.
Of course, the main concern about Scooter’s future success come from his splits against left-handed pitching. Here’s how his RHP/LHP splits stack up –
Accordingly, the Brewers have limited his exposure to LHP. Scooter has only racked up 72 PA and 49 BIP against them since joining the senior circuit. Scooter’s only stat versus LHP that has reached its stabilization point is K%, which sits at a gaudy 29.2 K%.
So it’s easy to see why sitting Scooter against southpaws is a smart move. How it affects the team’s long-term strategy will be interesting to track in the coming years. Will Scooter win the job outright or will the Brewers feel compelled to keep him platooned?
In conclusion, the only stats where Scooter’s sample size is still too volatile are AVG (910 AB), BABIP (820 BIP), XBH% (1,610 PA), and LD% (600 BIP). A longer track record of balls in play is needed to stabilize their unpredictable nature. Yet, the stats that have stabilized outline an interesting picture.
Scooter Gennett has been fighting against the odds for a long time. He was drafted in the 16th round. He was never a highly regarded prospect. He decided, at a young age, to only respond to the nickname Scooter. All kidding aside, if Scooter can keep his big league numbers on this path, he could develop into a solid big leaguer. Probably not a cornerstone piece of the organization but still an important addition. If Scooter can keep getting the bat to the ball, and limit his PAs against LHP, the Brewers have a young, cheap, and controllable player whose offense projects to be an above average at his position. As Scooter has already proven, that can provide the Brewers solid value going forward.