Since 2000, Mike Scioscia has been the manager of the Angels. He has compiled a record of 1156-928, good for a 55.4% win rate (an average record of 89-73). In his 14 seasons, the Angels have only had 3 seasons where they finished sub .500. Only one of which has come since 2003.
Under Scioscia's tutelage, Angel fans have been spoiled. Angel fans have become adjusted to the Angels playing October playoff baseball, being one of the elite teams in the American League, and expect a level of excellence most teams can only dream of achieving. Just ask the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals. They have had a combined two, yes two, winning seasons during Scioscia's tenure. However, there is now doubt about Sciosia's ability as a manager because the Angels have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons.
Have the last three seasons really been Scioscia's fault? The 2010 Angels never really had a chance. They attempted to replace the departure of the face of the franchise, Vladimir Guerrero, with Hideki Matsui. Outside of a great September he was an absolute bust that doomed the Angels with his inability to hit with runners on base. The 2011 season was the season of the infamous Vernon Wells trade. Who can forget that the Angels shipped out two middle of the order bats in Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli to have Wells be the new 4th hitter? Wells is one of the classiest athletes both on and off the field, but it was borderline insanity to expect him to be a competent 4th hitter. It is possible that these two years can be chalked up to terrible executive decisions, as evidenced by Tony Reagins "resigning".
The 2012 season falls squarely Scioscia's shoulders. Owner Arte Moreno and new General Manager Jerry DiPoto refused to accept another mediocre season. Their response? Giving the Angels roster an infusion of talent by signing Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Latroy Hawkins, and Jason Isringhausen. Dipoto attempted to address the bullpen, line-up, and pitching staff all in one offseason. Despite the influx of talent, the Angels only managed 3rd place in the AL West as they played themselves to an 89-63 record. Although the Angels, especially Albert Pujols, got off to an awful start, even a Scioscia apologist cannot overlook Scioscia's ineffective management of the roster. He consistently relied too heavily on ancient veterans Isringhausen, Hawkins, and Scott Downs. This resulted in the Angel's bullpen blowing lead after lead after lead after lead after lead, well you get my point. As a result, Angel fans were left with a disappointing taste in their mouths as the World-Series bound Angels missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
So are the recent struggles Scioscia's fault, or is it simply Scioscia learning to win with a change in team philosophy? From 2003-2008 the Angels were a team centered around pitching and defense. Over that stretch, they ranked as a top-ten defensive team when analyzing UZR/150. The pitching staff had an average ERA of 4.09; ranking in the top 10 three different years, with two top 5 finishes. During this same time span, the Angels only managed to post a top 10 scoring offense twice. After the 2008 season the Angels perceived a dire need to change the team philosophy. The organization saw an alarming number of strikeouts and changed the focus to a team based on a higher on-base percentage and the ability to hit home runs. Since 2008, the Angels have been a top five offense twice and only outside of the top 10 once. Since the shift in philosophy, the Angels raised their average of 150 home runs/season from 2003-2008 to 167.5 home runs/season. However, there are consequences to the new style of team composition. As a result the Angels are yet to post a top 15 WAR pitching staff, and a top five UZR/150 defense once since 2008.
So is it Mike Scioscia's fault that the Angels have fallen short of their lofty goals in recent years, or simply him learning to manage with a new style of team? Scioscia has always been touted as a National League style manager focusing on pitching and defense, while employing small-ball tactics. Now he has a more traditional American League style roster capable of scoring more runs, but an organization that pursues older veterans who are slow and sub-standard defenders. As a result Scioscia is no longer able to utilize his small-ball philosophy. But can Scioscia learn to be successful with a traditional American League style of play? The fact that the Angels have increased their win totals over the past three years should make Angel fans believe that Scioscia simply has had some growing pains learning to manage an American League style roster, and not a sign that Scioscia's tenure is coming to unsatisfying close. Hopefully the trend continues and the Angels win 90+ games this season so that Angel fans can get ready for an exciting month of October baseball.