Welcome to a new weekly feature: Second-Guessing Scioscia. As you might have surmised, it is a look back at some of the questionable decisions that Mike Scioscia made in the last week. This isn’t because we dislike Scioscia, in fact, MWAH is officially pro-Scioscia. However, we do realize that Scioscia is not infallible and hope to use this series to bring light to the decisions in which Scioscia went wrong. At a minimum, it will help us all come to a better understanding of what goes on during games but maybe, just maybe, we’ll get lucky and this will somehow make Scioscia more self-aware of his more chronic managerial missteps.
3/31/14 – Inherited runners and poor reliever choices
The seventh inning of the Opening Day game was just a disaster for Scioscia. His first mistake was letting Jered Weaver come out to start the seventh inning despite Weaver narrowly escaping the sixth inning and seeing his fastball velocity dip to below 85 MPH. Scioscia, apparently, was relying quite heavily on the fact that Weaver had success against the bottom of the lineup earlier in the game.
Sure enough, Weaver gave up a single to Dustin Ackley (who has an established record of success against Weaver, FWIW) before surrendering a triple to Mike Zunino. In Scioscia’s defense, Josh Hamilton misplayed the ball, but Zunino did make good contact. At this point, Scioscia decided to compound the problem by going to Fernando Salas out of the bullpen.
This is a tie game with the go-ahead run on third base. What the Angels need is a groundball or a strikeout. Naturally, Scioscia brought in a reliever who is an extreme flyball pitcher with an average whiff rate. He only had so much time to warm someone up and the logical choice, Dane De La Rosa, is on the DL, but Salas was pretty much the worst possible reliever to choose in this situation. Joe Smith gets a ton of grounders and is just plain better than Salas. He should not have been held back simply because it wasn’t the eighth inning. Smith should be pitching in high leverage situations and this is about as high leverage as it gets. You could make the same argument to justify bringing in strikeout machine Ernesto Frieri. If you simply must go with a middle reliever, Michael Kohn would’ve been preferable since he does strike a lot of people out and isn’t much more of a flyball risk than Salas.
What bugs me the most about this situation was less the choice of Salas and more trying to get a few more batters out of Weaver. The most damning sin that Scioscia committed in 2013 was how frequently he brought in relievers with inherited runners. That puts them in a situation to fail. I get that Weaver is his ace, but he clearly was running out of gas and the Angels clearly don’t have the bullpen talent to be forced into entering games with runners in scoring position already.
4/1/14 – Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
Now for the controversy. With runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, Scioscia had C.J. Wilson intentionally walk Robinson Cano. Yes, it is Robinson Cano, but C.J. Wilson is death on left-handed hitting. Putting Cano on raised Seattle’s run expectancy by 0.1114, which isn’t huge, but it is far from inconsequential. It also brought Justin Smoak to the plate, batting right handed from which he has a career wRC+ of 83 versus 103 as a lefty.
I get what Scioscia’s going for here. Justin Smoak is far less dangerous than Robinson Cano and swinging right-handed is his weaker side. Don’t let Cano beat you if you can help it. Well, Cano didn’t. Smoak did instead, but at least Scioscia pissed off Wilson in the process. I’m not actually sure it was the wrong call. I’m not sure there is a right decision here, but I tend to lean towards the side that involves fewer runners on base.
What did bother me though is that Scioscia was presented with a very similar situation the very next night. In a close game with a runner on second and two outs, Scioscia had Santiago pitch to Cano instead of walking him. I guess he learned his lesson from the night before, but he shouldn’t be that lacking in confidence with what to do in that situation.
4/2/14 – Salas again
For stretches of each season, Scioscia seems to fall in love with a shiny new toy in the bullpen. Currently, the object of his obsession is Fernando Salas but Scioscia may have already broken that toy. In a near repeat of Monday’s game, Salas was brought in with runners on first and second and nobody out. If the Halos don’t get out of this, the game is functionally over. It is early in the game, but the situation is of very high leverage.
As has been the case too often lately, Sosh opted to favor the inning instead of the situation. This would’ve been a perfect time to bring in Joe Smith or even Ernesto Frieri, especially when you consider that neither player had pitched yet this season and the Halos have a day off the next day.
Nope, not for Scioscia. Salas came in and on three consecutive pitches went: RBI double, out, three-run homer. GAME OVER.
Oh, Scioscia would eventually have Smith and Frieri pitch in the game, after all, they needed the work. But they pitched in the eighth and ninth inning well after the game was out of hand. That’s just a horrific use of resources.