Having harped on the Angels and their handling of Brandon Wood quite enough already this season, I’ve got myself a new bone to pick with the team. This time, I’m calling out Mike Scioscia.
I’m not going after Scioscia in general though, no, I’m here to take issue with his ability to select a proper line-up. Granted, he hasn’t done anything as bad as his progeny, Joe Maddon who recently screwed up his line-up card and ended up losing his DH and hitting his pitcher in the three-hole, but he isn’t too far off from that level of buffoonery.
What Scioscia has allowed to happen under his inimitable purview is to have the two-hole in the batting order turn into a gaping black hole. Traditionally, the second spot in the order is supposed to be filled by a batter that can not only get on base and run but also show a little bit of pop and situational hitting to drive in some runs. What the Angels have gotten from their second hitter is the exact antithesis of that prototype.
On the season, players hitting in the two-hole for the Angels have a pitiful .303 OBP and a meager .383 SLG%. Is it any wonder the Halo offense sputters so much? Bobby Abreu is getting lambasted by Angel fans for driving in only 14 runs this year as the Angels’ primary three-hole hitter. Sure, he hasn’t displayed much power, but what good would that power be with nobody on base to knock in? Abreu only has 39 at-bats this year with runners in scoring position. Considering that, it is a downright miracle that he has as many RBIs as he does.
The problem isn’t that Scioscia has been unlucky in his selection of #2 hitters this season. His initial choice, Howie Kendrick, has certainly had a rough start to the year, but the issue at hand is that Kendrick was ever tabbed for that duty in the first place. Kendrick fits the mold in that he has a little bit of power and speed, but he has repeatedly failed at being even an adequate situational hitter (unless the situation calls for him to ground into a double play) and is positively allergic to taking a walk. In total, Kendrick has amassed a cringe-worthy .521 OPS in the two-hole. Can you say line-up FAIL?
If you see this person batting second, please call the proper authorities.
After Kendrick fell flat on his face (and then repeatedly smashed his face into the ground a few more times after that) in the two-hole, Scioscia has been hosting open auditions for the job, but the casting call keeps going out to the wrong people. Maicer Izturis is currently leading the pack, but I have no idea why (though I suspect it includes possession of incriminating photos of Scioscia). Izturis has only performed marginally better than Kendrick. At least Maicer’s OBP in the role is over .300 (a whopping .317). Scioscia is constantly touting Izturis for his situational hitting ability, but the primary job of the two-hole hitter isn’t to drive runs in but to put themselves in a position to score them, which Izzy is not doing.
Maicer Izturis: the solution or the problem?
A few other Angels have gotten looks at the second spot, including Gary Matthews and most recently Erick Aybar. That Aybar has even become an option at the two-hole shows just how desperate the Angels have gotten. If lack of OBP is the biggest problem the Angels face in that spot, why resort to using the one player on the roster more averse to drawing a walk than Howie Kendrick?
Scioscia is scraping the bottom of the barrel to find a solution, but he the real answer is staring him right in the face. There is one player on the Angels active roster that fits the two-hole job description to a tee and all Sosh has to do to find him is look one spot down on his line-up card. Hitting Bobby Abreu second is just so obvious. There is no question that he has the requisite patience and he has shown more than enough base stealing prowess to satiate Scioscia’s desire to have an aggressive baserunner in that slot. While he hasn’t done well driving runs in this year, his seven seasons of 100+ RBIs indicates that he is more than up to the task. Best of all, bumping him up in the order turns his massive power deficiency into an almost non-problem… almost.
The primary argument against moving Abreu would be that it weakens the depth of the line-up, but that argument holds no water. The line-up is practically crippled already by having a non-factor hitting second and a punchless hitter batting third. The Angels line-up will be just fine with Torii Hunter batting third and Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli sharing the four and five slots. And that arrangement looks like it would only have to last a week now that Big Bad Vlad is nearing a return and can slot into the vacated three-hole himself. Problem solved, you can thank me later.
Don’t do it Scioscia, I’m begging you.
There is one problem though. Making that maneuver goes against Scioscia’s fundamental theory that any offensive problem can be solved by throwing another slap-hitter at the top of the order which means there is a better chance that Reggie Willits gets handed the job before Abreu even gets a look. I have a dream that someday a copy of Moneyball will show up in Mike Scioscia’s mailbox and ends this nightmare before Scioscia finds a way to clone Maicer Izturis and have him hit 1 thru 9.