Defending Scioscia’s Lineup Choices

With all his crazy lineup choices of late, Mike Scioscia has come under fire from almost every angle.  Maybe it is time we all ease off and put a little trust in a guy who probably knows more about baseball than the rest of us combined.

June 10, 2010 - Oakland, CALIFORNIA, USA - epa02195768 Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia checks out the Oakland Athletics lineup in Oakland California, USA, 10 June 2010. The A's went on to beat the Angels 6-1.

Scioscia can do some weird things with his lineup card, but he also probably knows what he is doing.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t get frustrated at the sometimes confounding choices Mike Scioscia makes with his batting order.  I was just as perplexed as the rest of you to see a lineup that featured Bobby Abreu leading off and Maicer Izturis batting clean up.  Every part of my logical, rational brain screamed “MISTAKE!!!!!!”  Big Abreu is supposed to drive in runs and little Izturis is supposed to score them, not the other way around.  Baseball Caveman no like!  Baseball Caveman smash!!!!

After some gentle prodding from my Twitter friends and my own ability to comprehend numbers, that particular lineup actually isn’t all that bad.  All season long Angel fans have been bitching about how the tablesetters at the top of the order haven’t been doing their job and getting on base for the heart of the order.  So what did Scioscia do?  He put the guy with the second-best OBP (behind only Torii Hunter) on the team into the leadoff spot.  A high on-base guy being put in a position to get on base, what a novel idea!

And then there is the other chief complaint about the Angel offense that, outside of Torii Hunter, the middle of the lineup is doing a piss poor job of driving in runners.  Bobby Abreu had been in that role before and done a passable job of pushing runners across the plate, but too often he seemed content to try and draw a walk and let someone else do the heavy lifting.  That prompted Scioscia to do the seemingly non-sensical thing and move Maicer Izturis into the heart of the lineup.  Surely that light-hitting midget couldn’t possibly be up to the task.

Oh, wait.  He is.  In fact, he is the leader in batting average with runners in scoring position on the team at .333.  At this point, some smartass will point out the small sample size of 45 RISP at-bats this year, to which I respond by pointing out Mighty Maicer’s impressive .328 career RISP average, promptly shutting up the aforementioned smartass.

Everyone would prefer that the Halos had someone with more power batting fourth, but given the relative dearth of sluggers available to Mike Scioscia with Torii Hunter suspended, Izturis is actually not a bad consolation prize.

What?  You’d rather he go with Hideki Matsui?  Do you mean the guy who has frequently gone ice cold for long stretches of the season?  Or the guy who is hitting just .260 with runners in scoring position?  Or the guy whose ISO is only 30 points higher than Maicer’s?  Or the guy who can’t hit left-handed pitching to save his life?

D’oh!  That is all the same guy!  My bad.

Fine.  If not Matsui, than why not Mike Napoli and all of his big scary power?

I’ll grant you that his ability to go yard could put some runs up in a hurry, but he can kill a rally even quicker than he can ignite one.  Naps has 85 ABs with runners in scoring position this year and all he has to show for it is a .200 average, a whopping 29 strikeouts (which is 34% of those at-bats, by the way) and five rally-killing GIDPs.  Meanwhile all his power has produced is three homers and three doubles.  That’s right, he has just one more extra-base hit than double play balls.  Now do we all understand why Scioscia refuses to extricate Napoli from the eight-hole?

Gosh, after weighing all that evidence it almost seems like Mike Scioscia ACTUALLY KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING.  And I didn’t even mention that the Angels averaging 6.4 runs per game (versus 4.6 normally) since Abreu moved to the top of the order, with four of those five games being played WITHOUT Torii Hunter.

Scioscia isn’t just tinkering for the sake of tinkering, he is putting guys into position to maximize their abilities rather than pigeon-holing them into roles they aren’t well-suited for.  Remember when Erick Aybar first was placed in the leadoff spot?  He struggled and scrapped because he tried too hard to be more patient and draw more walks.  It was pretty much a disaster until he abandoned that approach and went back to being a free-swinging, action hitter.  He has been vastly improved since then, but he no longer is a fit for the leadoff role.  Putting Abreu in that spot instead almost makes too much sense.  No matter where you hit him, he is going to make taking pitches a priority.  So why not take full advantage of it and have him head the top of the order?  I know Aybar may look the part and Abreu doesn’t, but that is a dumb reason to continue forcing Erick to do a job that he just isn’t cut out for.

You’d think that a manager that turned a franchise from a perennial afterthought into an annual contender would get a little more leeway with his decision making, but I guess not.  So let me just apologize in advance on Scioscia’s behalf the next time he bats a guy in a lineup spot that he doesn’t “look” like he should occupy.  Just keep ignoring the numbers and continue your inane rants.  I’m sure nobody will notice what a fool you are making of yourself (I’m talking to you TJ Simers).

Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the founder and Supreme Overlord of and editor at The Outside Corner. He's an Ivy League graduate, but not from one of the impressive ones. You shouldn't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he is angry.