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Scutaro's plate discipline reaches rare heights

Giants second baseman difficult to strike out, boasts record contact rate

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Marco Scutaro is a pest.

Well, at least against opposing pitchers.

In 2013, the Giants second baseman saw an average of 3.92 pitches per plate appearance and was the toughest hitter in Major League Baseball to strike out among qualified hitters -- just 34 times in 547 plate appearances.

Yet it has not always been that way for Scutaro. Coming up in the big leagues in 2002 where stat-stuffing power hitters were popular, he had to find his niche.

"Over the years I have had to learn what my game is," said Scutaro, who is entering his 13th year in the Majors. "I'm not a power hitter or an RBI guy. My game is just putting the ball in play and trying to get on base. That's really what I focus on."

Perhaps the most reflective stat of Scutaro's career overall is his ability to make contact on the pitches he swings at. In fact, his 93 percent contact rate ranks him second in the history of the game.

What does that number mean to Scutaro?

"It's good because it shows that I'm getting contact, but on the other hand there are times that I'd rather miss than hit a weak ground ball," Scutaro said. "It's kind of a waste sometimes when I hit a weak ball fair."

Scutaro mentioned that he does not go up just looking to make contact with the ball; it is deeper than that.

As the second batter in the lineup, he approaches his at-bats with a focus on working the count and seeing as many pitches as possible, particularly the first time through the order.

"It helps me and my teammates," Scutaro said. "If I go up there and see a lot of pitches, that's not only for me, but for my teammates and the guys coming up behind me so they get to see what he's pitching."

Hitting in the Major Leagues is by no means easy. It takes plate discipline and skill to be able to stay away from pitches breaking out of the zone and foul off the ones that may be in the zone but aren't suitable to hit. Baseball at times is a game of patience.

"They're all tough: sinkers, sliders, everything," Scutaro said. "As hitters, we just get mistakes. If the pitcher throws it where the catcher asks for it all of the time, we would pretty much have no chance. We have to take advantage of the mistakes."

One of the pitchers that Scutaro has hassled in the past is teammate Jeremy Affeldt. The Giants reliever has pitched against Scutaro before and knows all too well how frustrating it is to get players like him out.

"Those are the types of guys who are really difficult to face," Affeldt said. "You know you're not going to get it by him because he's a contact guy. The problem is, if he doesn't like the pitch, he can foul it off.

"Eventually we're human, so we are going to make a mistake in the zone. So even if you've been hitting your spots the whole at-bat, you make that one mistake and he hits a single. You throw your hands up and say, 'Seriously, man, I just went through nine pitches with you, you got a single and wasted my pitch count. I should've just walked you.'"

Imagine how many pitchers have said that in the past 12 years after facing Scutaro.

Ross Dunham is a junior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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