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Second-guessing Scioscia – Week 10: Know thy players

Welcome to Second-Guessing Scioscia, our 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 he is not infallible and hope to use this series to bring light to the decisions in which he went wrong (or was at least perceived to be wrong by some). 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.

In this week’s edition we take a look at one of the key duties of a manager which is to know their own players, understand how to use them and when not to use them. Specifically, we look at what happens when a manager fails to know his players properly.

LET THE SECOND-GUESSING BEGIN!

5/31/14 – Intentional walk to Lowrie to get to Donaldson
Sometimes the right play just feels like the wrong play. This was definitely one of those. The scene here was the Angels were up one and Oakland had runners on second and third with one out. Switch-hitter Jed Lowrie was at the plate and Joe Smith was on the mound. What do you do?

What Scioscia did was rely on Joe Smith, an extreme groundball pitcher who murders right-handed batters, to play to his strengths. As such, he had Smith intentionally walk Lowrie to put the double play in order. The problem with that is the guy hitting behind Lowrie was Josh Donaldson. Sure, he’s right-handed, but he was a legitimate MVP candidate last year and very much appears to be one this season as well. Lowrie is no slouch, but Donaldson is incredibly dangerous. At a certain point match-ups only take you so far.

Still, the situation dictated the strategy. Walking Lowrie increased Oakland’s win probability by 4%. That’s a significant bump, bump the Angels were already in a pretty bad situation to begin with. The run expectancy before the walk is already well over one run and when you are only concerned with allowing that one run, tacking on more is acceptable.

What neither win probability nor run expectancy account for though is who is coming to the plate. Is it really still just a 4% bump when it is Donaldson coming to the plate? Methinks not.

Set aside the fact that Smith did, in fact, get Donaldson to groundout (though a run scored as it was too weak of a grounder to turn two). The real issue is that Scioscia literally put the A’s in position to have their best player beat them and he did it voluntarily.

VERDICT:
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6/1/14 – Don’t ever sac bunt with the second batter of the game!
I’m going to give Scioscia some plausible deniability here and assume that this was not something that he ordered but I nearly hulked out and threw my couch at the TV when Erick Aybar had the audacity to lay down a sacrifice bunt as the second batter of the FREAKING game.

Sac bunts, in general, are a bad idea. You are giving away an out for a small improvement (if any) in run expectancy. If you are really playing for just one run, that can be kind of, sort of but not really acceptable. But when it is the top of the first inning and you have no idea how the game is going to play out, it is certifiable insanity.

What this really was to me though was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Halos had been scrapping to score runs recently and were facing a top pitcher in Sonny Gray in this game. No doubt the Angels knew going into the game how valuable each run was going to be. But you can’t start giving away outs against an elite pitcher this early in the game. If you try that hard to just score one run, guess what? You are probably ONLY going to score one run.

That being said, I get the feeling that Aybar made this decision on his own. Scioscia has been pretty good about not ordering dumb bunts this season, so I doubt he suddenly went stupid again. Plus, Aybar flashed the bunt late enough that there appeared to be at least a hint that he was hoping he might be able to bunt for a hit, though it wasn’t a running bunt attempt as you usually see in a bunt for a hit attempt, so I can’t be certain.

Ultimately, it is the job of the manager to make sure players make the correct decision like not deciding to sac bunt on their own, but still, I BLAME YOU, ERICK AYBAR!

VERDICT:
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6/3/14 - Wilson made us all sick
Coming into this game, there were internet rumbling that C.J. Wilson had been laid up for a few days with the flu. Well, “flu-like symptoms” at least because nobody in sports is ever allowed to admit that they have the actual flu… for some reason that I completely fail to understand. If true, it would explain Wilson’s poor performance.

What it wouldn’t explain is why Scioscia allowed the poor performance to happen. Scioscia would obviously know that Wilson was not 100% and consult with him before the game to see if he was well enough to go. From the looks of how he ended up pitching, Wilson must’ve done a great sell job on Scioscia to avoid being bumped from the start. It is an understandable decision from Scioscia since Wilson has been their best pitcher and is a proven competitor who knows his body very well.

What isn’t understandable is why Scioscia wasn’t quicker to hit the eject button. It was clear early on that Wilson was off. His command wasn’t there. His stuff wasn’t crisp. His velocity was down. In fact, this was his second-worst start velocity-wise this season. When C.J. came out in that second inning and his fastball was sitting 88 to 90 MPH, Scioscia should’ve been sprinting towards the bullpen phone. By the second or even third walk of the third inning, that should’ve been time to send C.J. back to the hotel with some chicken soup. But for some reason, Scioscia allowed Wilson to give up one more walk and three hits, which resulted in five runs scoring, before he came with the hook.

What really chaps my ass about the whole situation was that Matt Shoemaker was right there to be used the whole time. The Angels had planned on skipping Shoe this time through the rotation, but they probably should’ve scrapped that plan when C.J. told them he had been barfing into the toilet for three straight days. At a minimum, Shoemaker should’ve been getting himself warmed up at the first sign of trouble. But no, that isn’t what happened because Scioscia was far happier to see Wilson metaphorically barf all over the Minute Maid Park mound.

VERDICT:
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Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the Supreme Overlord of Monkeywithahalo.com 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.

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