As we witnessed yesterday -- or, in my case, read about today -- the Red Sox pulled out the over-shift on Luke Scott yesterday. This is not a terribly rare occurrence; teams have been shifting on Luke Scott for some time, and if I'm not mistaken, I believe Joe Maddon and the Rays did it in the past. (Feel free to correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.)
But this shift got me to thinking: how similar are Luke Scott and Carlos Pena? Both are 34-year-old, left-handed sluggers, but is Scott as pull-heavy as Pena? Do pitchers attack the two the same? And how has Scott managed to maintain a normal BABIP while Pena's has dropped off a cliff?
Glancing over some spray charts, the short answer appears to be that Scott is a pull hitter, but not quite to the same extreme as Pena. (First chart if Pena, second is Scott.)
Scott's spray chart is from 2010, as he didn't have many plate appearances last season due to injuries. Notice how he took a lot of balls the other way (at least, in comparison with Pena), and he seems to love the left-center power alley.
And when we look at their batted ball splits numerically, the same trend pops out:
Okay, so this isn't necessarily some groundbreaking fact. Scott is a pull hitter, but not to the same extreme as Pena; few hitters are as pull-centric as Pena, so this is no real surprise. This probably explains in large part why Scott has been able to hit successfully around the shift (that and his lower K% rate), while Pena has struggled to keep his batting average above .220.
Similarly, if you look at how pitchers have attacked Scott, the pattern is very similar to how they attack Pena. They rarely throw inside, but focus on going away -- particularly low and away. But while Pena's weakness tends to be change ups and curve balls, Scott is weakest against the slider. Whenever he swings at one, he misses it around half the time against both righties and lefties. He also whiffs on curves and change ups, but closer to 40% of the time.
Scott is one of the Rays' biggest question marks this season. If his shoulder is healthy and he's able to hit for power, he would be a huge addition to the middle of the Rays' lineup. If his power takes some time to come back, though, he could continue the Rays' tradition of having "meh" DHs. There's no real way for us to quantify his shoulder's health, but labrum injuries aren't something to be easily written off, especially for a slugger in his 30s.
Scott's power will bear watching, but at the very least, he has one thing going for him: he can't possibly be worse than Manny.