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So Is Scooter Gennett Really This Good Now?

Illustration for article titled So Is Scooter Gennett Really This Good Now?
Photo: Denis Poroy (Getty Images)

There are usually a very limited number of ways that most fans will ever come to know that a guy like Scooter Gennett exists. He’s a player you would know if you’re the type of Brewers fan that keeps up with those 16th-round role-playing guys, ones that hang around for a few years and never really flash star potential. You might also know him if you are an especially attentive fan of those NL Central teams who always play the Brewers. Maybe your brain is shattered into even more irreparable bits from playing countless randomized games of MLB: The Show over the years, choosing a fourth random team, and getting stuck with a squad like the 2014 Brewers. Sometimes guys like Gennett break up no-hitters or hit out-of-nowhere grand slams and wind up on SportsCenter. Maybe you are just a fan of good baseball names, of which Scooter Gennett is inarguably one.

That’s generally about the size of it, and for players with Gennett’s profile and pedigree, this would be where the blog post ends. Gennett was, for the first four seasons of his Major League career, very much A Guy on A Guy’s career arc—around league average for a while and then around replacement level for a while, and seemingly bound to be cycled out when an actual Dude came along to claim his roster spot. When the Brewers waived him in early 2017 it seemed, to the extent that anyone noticed, like that unremarkable reckoning had finally come around. When the Reds claimed him off waivers it seemed like something the Reds would do.

But ever since Gennett whacked four dingers in a game last June, he has not been one of those Guys. He has been, and increasingly appears to be, something a lot more like a Dude. Gennett hit 27 homers last year after the Reds claimed him on waivers from the Braves and slashed a career-best .295/.342./.531 through 141 games, but also a lot of Guys hit a lot of homers last year. For the last two months of this year, though, he has somehow been even better. Gennett currently leads the National League in batting (.340 as of Tuesday) and ranks among the top five in WAR. He might be Daniel Murphy-ing his way into making the phrase “Scooter Gennett, All-Star” a true statement. The Guy is a Dude. It’s happening.


Which, if you’re just joining us, is weird. Gennett was always going to be easier to remember than, say, Travis Snider, mostly because his name is fucking Scooter, for one. There’s an amazing story about how he got that nickname, which has nothing to do with motorized scooters. He explicitly wants nothing to do with those, actually, as Gennett told the lunks on MLB Network last week. It turns out that the Yamaha Zuma 125 he was gifted last year by the Reds almost fucked up his shoulder real bad, to the point where he might not be getting on base with this sort of frequency (tune in around the 3:25 mark below). Scooter is not, as it happens, a scooter guy.

He reveals himself, in that interview, to be a solid, stolid American Baseball Boy, if also one who regrettably uses the phrase “fake news” to talk about radar guns and such. In short: dude’s a Scooter.

The question has always been the extent to which Scooter is a Dude. Regression grumps will and should point to how unsustainable his scorching month of May was, for him or anyone else—he hit .398, with eight dongs and a titanic 1.139 OPS, including one stretch in which he homered in four straight games. But while the dingers have slowed down in June, he still sports a .957 OPS through this month.


His BABIP is also a pretty ridiculous .395 so far this season, which is generally one of the easiest indicators that a hot hitter won’t be keeping an unsustainable pace up forever. But it also isn’t that extremely far off from his career numbers (.334) which suggests that Gennett had some latent Dude potential even when he was still generally understood to be a Guy. It makes sense that everyone is just now noticing all that given that the dingers are coming with a bit more regularity, but those earlier years of meh-to-solid performance have still kept him under the radar. He’s already eclipsed his WAR in any full season through mid-June, and ESPN’s WAR rankings have him just a shade below J.D. Martinez and James Paxton on the year.

The Reds are still one sorry heap of a team, and far enough off the pace already that they couldn’t be blamed for looking to deal a player like Gennett as quickly as possible for as much as they can get. It’d be a noble attempt to salvage some value from what’s likely to be their fourth consecutive last place finish. The frustration is palpable and out in the open, to the point where franchise cornerstone and Deadspin-clowner Joey Votto is visibly not happy with how little the organization is trying to win games.


It’s bad, and yet there is this weird Scooter-shaped miracle in the middle of it. The Reds pulled a winning lottery ticket off the waiver wire last year, and are paying a 28-year-old who is currently a fringe-y MVP candidate just $5.7 million, with another two years of team control ahead. They could cash Gennett in or hold until some light finally appears at the end of this very long tunnel. Either way, it’s unlikely that he’ll be allowed near any more scooters. He’s not a Guy, anymore. This dude, somehow, is a Dude.

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