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Second-guessing Scioscia – Week 11: Intentional harm

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 lick all the wounds that Scioscia inflicted upon the Angels. It is one thing that when he simply makes a poor logical choice or makes a sin of inaction, but it is quite another when Scioscia proactively makes a decision that knowingly (to most, but not to Scioscia, apparently) harms the team.

LET THE SECOND-GUESSING BEGIN!

6/8/14 – Intentional walk to Adam Dunn
With two outs in the ninth, Ernesto Frieri was trying to protect a two-run lead, but he had a runner on base. Up to the plate stepped Adam Dunn, who had hit a homer off of Frieri earlier in the series that near the prospective new stadium site in Tustin. This clearly frightened Scioscia to his very core as he had Frieri intentionally walk Dunn to avoid a game-tying homer from Big Country. However, in so doing, Scioscia had just walked the tying run on base and brought the winning run to the plate. Now a double could tie the game. Brilliant!

That walk shaved three percentage points off the Angels’ win expectancy, but it did bring Adrian Nieto to the plate. In that respect, it wasn’t the dumbest move by Scioscia since the White Sox were out of pinch-hitters and Nieto doesn’t appear to be much of an offensive threat. Still, Frieri has given up homers to lesser players. Plus, Nieto walked a lot in the minors, which could’ve easily led to the tying run being walked into scoring position. It was definitely a gamble on Scioscia’s part, but one mitigated by the talent drop from Dunn to Nieto.

VERDICT:
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6/9/14 – Why is Raul Ibanez stealing bases?
This one wasn’t really intentional harm, at least not by Scioscia. For some reason that I just can’t explain, Raul Ibanez decided to celebrate a rare RBI single from him by attempting to steal off of Jesse Chavez. He was promptly thrown out by several feet.

Aggressive baserunning is great and all, but even Scioscia has to realize that giving Ibanez a steal signal or allowing him the freedom to steal on his own probably isn’t the brightest idea. Throw up that red light, Sosh.

VERDICT:
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6/9/14 – Four days of Frieri
When I talk of in the previous items, I typically mean harming the team’s odds of winning, but in this case, Scioscia might have actually risked physical harm.

Scioscia has always been willing to abuse some of the less important arms in his bullpen, but seldom has he shown such disregard for one of his best relievers as he did by using Ernesto Frieri on four consecutive days. The rule of thumb in baseball is that guys should never be used more than three days in a row. This is occasionally violated by LOOGYs who are only facing one or two batters at a time, but you almost never see a guy throw one full inning on four consecutive days. Yet that is just what Scioscia did with Frieri.

From a pitch count perspective, Ernesto wasn’t too badly abused. He threw 21, 11, 19 and 14, respectively, in those outings, as you can easily see in the MWAH Bullpen Usage Report. What you can also see in that report is the leverage of those appearances, specifically the last one. While it was a save situation since it was a 4-1 game, the leverage for the inning was low. It just wasn’t an inning Frieri was needed for. Scioscia could’ve gone with most any other reliever, too, as only Frieri and Smith had worked the previous day and only Morin and Rasmus had worked the day before that. Everyone but Smith and Frieri were well-rested.

Scioscia “got away with” the move because Ernesto promptly struck out the side, but that really wasn’t the concern. With a three-run lead, Scioscia could’ve gotten another pitcher in the game if Frieri got in trouble. The bigger issue is simply that Frieri could’ve hurt himself. Ernesto knows his arm better than I do, obviously, but it is hard to believe he wasn’t fatigued entering the game. Pitching while fatigued greatly increases the odds of an arm injury both during the game and after as Frieri has never had to recover from four straight days of use. Considering the bullpen issues of the Angels, they can’t be so careless with one of their best relievers.

Scioscia made the poor decision here, but the real villain is the save statistic. I firmly believe had Scioscia been able to focus on the leverage of the game at that point and not the arbitrary designation of it being a “save situation” then he never would’ve even warmed Frieri up.

VERDICT:
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6/10/14 – Cuckoo for Coco walks
Whereas I kind of understood the aforementioned Adam Dunn intentional walk, Mike Scioscia gave Coco Crisp an intentional pass in the ninth inning of this 1-1 game and I have absolutely no reason why. There were two outs and a runner on third, so there is no real harm in putting Crisp on as his run doesn’t matter. But there is also no real advantage because there is no need for a double play.

From a match-up standpoint, there is also no big upgrade as Crisp is a switch-hitter, but so is John Jaso, the guy Scioscia walked Crisp to get to. The only real difference is that Crisp is very fast and Jaso is not. With Joe Smith, an extreme groundball pitcher, on the mound, that actually is a factor since Crisp is a real threat for a game-ending infield single. And since someone will ask, Smith had almost no history against either batter, so that shouldn’t have been a factor.

I can’t say for sure that Scioscia was making the move with the groundball match-up in mind so much as “Crisp has been hot lately,” but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt of this sneakily savvy move.

VERDICT:
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6/10/14 – Why steal when you can sacrifice?
From intentionally awarding bases to the opposition to intentionally awarding them outs. In Tuesday’s extra innings thriller, Scioscia felt it prudent to have Kole Calhoun lay down a sac bunt in the 13th inning to move a runner, who just drew a leadoff walk, into scoring position.

It is annoying enough that he took that bat out of Kole Calhoun’s hand, especially since Jeff Francis isn’t exactly a lefty-killing southpaw, but it is quite another to give up an out so that one of best basestealers in all of baseball could be moved to second base. I know there is a theory out there that Trout may not be fully healthy and thus hasn’t been trying to steal (though he did steal one a few days earlier), but is this not the perfect place to take off the kid gloves?

The only reasonable excuse is that Francis appears to be good at holding runners on. His caught stealing percentage of 26% is nothing special, but steal attempts, in general, are on the low side. If Trout couldn’t get a read, I’d understand, but Scioscia bunted right away, never giving him a chance to find out. To make matters worse, Derek Norris was the catcher behind the plate and he has had a very tough season throwing out runners, nabbing just three of 27 basestealers. For his career, he has caught just 23%, which is below league average. So, again, this would’ve been a great time to try and steal.

What kills me is that Scioscia falls into this trap all of the time. He is all about aggressive baserunning, but not in these cases and I just can’t even begin to get my head around this seemingly antithetical line of thinking.

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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