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.
I actually think I might have to change the standard introductory paragraph of this feature. There were so many moronic missteps this week that I don’t know if MWAH can still declare itself as officially pro-Scioscia. I could live with Scioscia doing things because he is mired in tradition or risk averse, but it is quite another thing to see him do things that are plainly stupid to even the most casual of observer.
A manager’s impact on the game can often be overstated, but there is little doubt that in this one week, Scioscia cost the Angels one win, quite possibly two. IN ONE WEEK! For all the good things that Scioscia is said to do in dealing with players and running a clubhouse, there is a legitimate question now if his in-game management is more than canceling those unquantifiably food things out.
You better find a comfy chair and maybe a vomit bag. Things are about to get bumpy.
6/14/14 – Overusing Frieri with special guest star Dino Ebel!
Let’s start out easy and pick on Scioscia’s stand in, Dino Ebel. By and large, Ebel got positive marks for his managerial one-night stand. However, he did make one pretty critical mistake, a mistake that might’ve ended up leading to the most egregious second-guess of the year. For reasons that I don’t understand, Ebel decided to have Ernesto Frieri pitch the ninth inning with the Angels up 5-1. I’m all for getting the most out your best relievers, but Frieri had just worked four days in a row and gotten four days off to recover. At a point, you have to trust in your best reliever, but you also have to be aware that he nobody really knew how he was going to reach to such a heavy workload. Perhaps that is what they had in mind by having him pitch to protect a lead, but in a low leverage situation. However, you could also argue that they should get him as much rest as possible before calling on him again.
Cam Bedrosian, Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus aren’t the most inspiring of names, but they were all available and working on at least two days of rest. If you can’t trust them with a four-run lead, then they probably shouldn’t be on the roster, but Ebel didn’t seem to trust them. In fact, he had so little trust in them that he was reluctant to call on any of them to bail Frieri out. Instead, he let Frieri twist in the wind with reduced velocity and clearly flat stuff. The game was tied by the time he called on Mike Morin, who was the best reliever available but worked hard in recent days.
Frieri just never should’ve been in the game and in the event he did enter the game, Ebel should’ve been cognizant of the potential lingering fatigue and had a quick hook ready. The instant he realized that Frieri couldn’t hit his spots or crack 93 MPH on the radar gun, he should’ve had someone warming up. Heck, he probably should’ve had someone warmed up already. He did none of that and the Angels nearly lost the game, fried the bullpen and may have permanently broken Frieri. So, you’ll have to excuse me if I knock Ebel’s grade for the game down a notch or two.
6/16/14 – Ibanez is stealing bases… again
Didn’t we just talk about this?! Last week, in this same space, I reprimanded Scioscia for allowing Raul Ibanez to attempt steals. Fast forward a week and there’s Raul running all over the place again. This time though it was far more clear that he was doing so under the command of Scioscia as Ibanez was thrown out in a critical situation in an obvious hit-and-run.
The thing that stings so much is that Ibanez was nearly safe. It was almost as if a faster man would’ve been safe. If only the Angels had one of those. Oh, wait! They did! Collin Cowgill was just sitting there on the bench the whole time, doing nothing. But that was all part of the master plan, according to Scioscia:
Although the obvious move seemed to be Collin Cowgill pinch running for Ibañez, Scioscia said he felt he had to save Cowgill because he planned to pinch hit for left-handed Kole Calhoun if the Indians brought in either of their lefty relievers.
Ah, yes. Very smart. Save Cowgill to pinch-hit. Too bad they didn’t have another potent right-handed bat on the bench that could’ve been used as a pinch-hitter instead. Oh, wait! They did! C.J. Cron was just sitting there on the bench the whole time, doing nothing. Cron never ended up getting into the game. Guess who else didn’t either? Collin Cowgill!
Never mind that Calhoun can actually hold his own against lefties and that Cleveland never brought in their lefty relievers to face Calhoun. Those are just details and we’re not supposed to sweat the details, right? I guess Scioscia had to use Cowgill to hit for Calhoun since there was nobody else to play the outfield, but why not use John McDonald to pinch-run then? Finding someone faster than Raul Ibanez really isn’t that hard.
Anyway, Scioscia saved Cowgill and Cron and a good thing too because he really ended up needing them for… what, exactly? Oh, right. Neither of them ever got into the game. All part of Scioscia’s master plan, I’m sure.
This was a pretty colossal blunder by Scioscia. He clearly just out-thought himself, but these are the kind of mistakes a veteran manager just shouldn’t make. Sadly, this wouldn’t be the most monumental clusterfuck of the week.
6/19/14 – Where’s Cron?
A few days later and we are still searching for C.J. Cron. This time, the fans were incensed that Cron was not in the starting lineup. This has been a growing sentiment, but it seemed to peak on this day. That is some pretty poor timing on the part of the fans.
I in no way think that Ibanez should be getting regular playing time. However, he should be starting against Justin Masterson. Masterson is death on right with a career OPS of ? against righties versus ? against lefties. Cron isn’t nearly proven enough to run him out there against someone like Masterson. Having a lefty bat to platoon with Cron is smart. The only real problem is that the bat is Raul Ibanez who is old and terrible and terribly old.
Now, this only justifies this one particular start. Why Cron didn’t start against Bauer or Tomlin earlier in the series is a legitimate gripe.
6/19/14 – What the hell is going on?!?!
I honestly don’t know if I am emotionally ready to discuss this yet. Alright, deep breath. Let’s just stick together and I think we can all get through this. Here we go.
There is no other explanation for what happened in this game than Scioscia has simply lost his marbles. This isn’t one of those cases where something bad happened and we all jumped down his throat after getting to see the event in 20/20 hindsight. No, this move was second-guessed before Scioscia actually made the move. Literally. Angels fans on Twitter and even the beat writers for the team were beside themselves with confusion when it became apparent that Cam Bedrosian was coming into the game to get the save with the Angels up 3-1.
The first question that had to be answered was why wasn’t Frieri getting the call? Believe it or not, that is actually the most understandable part of this quagmire. Frieri had gotten shelled two outings ago and wasn’t very good in the outing after that either. Scioscia knows better than anyone that when Frieri goes off the rails, he can go way off the rails and take awhile to get back on. Fatigue was also in play as Ernesto had thrown 27 pitches in his last outing, though that shouldn’t have been a major concern.
The next question is why in the world Scioscia opted to go with Cam Bedrosian. Because it was a tie game, he already burned Joe Smith in the ninth inning, which is actually a very progressive thing to do and he should be applauded for it. But it did leave him with a tough choice in the tenth and he ended up choosing poorly.
Bedrosian is being touted as the closer of the future. The keyword there is “future.” Bedrock Jr. has actually been pretty bad in the present in his brief time in the majors. He had made just five appearances prior to this game and allowed runs in three of them. His past two outings earned him meltdowns. His most recent outing was particularly bad as he had a meltdown in a low leverage situation (which is harder to do than in a high leverage situation) and couldn’t even get out of the inning. But none of that bothered Scioscia because he had “confidence” in Bedrosian, more on that in a bit.
So who should he have gone with? Most everyone, myself included, felt Mike Morin should’ve gotten the call. Morin has been terrific this season, but seems to lack that same confidence from Scioscia as he is only used in high leverage situations by sheer necessity. Scioscia would later explain that he wanted to avoid Morin because he had been worked hard of late. This is true. Morin was on two days of rest, but before that, he had pitched in five of the last seven days. That is a heavy load, but the two days of rest should’ve been good enough to go with him considering that the game was on the line. The other choices would’ve been Cory Rasmus and Dane De La Rosa, so it Scioscia’s options were very limited, but Morin still seems like the obvious choice, other than Frieri.
As everyone expected, Bedrosian struggled to find the zone and quickly got in trouble. This is where Scioscia doubled down on the stupid. He smartly recognized that Cam was in a bad place and go another arm up in the pen. So who did he choose? Ernesto Frieri! The guy he went out of his way to avoid. I don’t see how that makes any logical sense at all. If he was worried about Frieri and didn’t want him to come into a clean inning to protect a two-run lead, how is it OK to bring him into a game with the same two-run lead but the bases loaded with one out?
Scioscia somehow managed to trust and ignore his instincts at the same time. His gut told him that Frieri wasn’t to be trusted, so he went with Bedrosian. The second that decision started going wrong, he completely reversed course rather than considering all alternatives… like bringing in Mike Morin. Morin may not be overpowering, but he limits that damage and keeps the ball in the park. The one thing the Angels couldn’t afford in that situation is for a pitcher to make a mistake over the plate and allowing an extra base hit that would clear the bases and end the game. That isn’t a job description that Frieri is cut out for what with his 2.17 HR/9 rate this season and historic problems with the longball. Sure enough, Frieri made a mistake over the plate and paid dearly for it.
But we’re not done yet because this epic fuck-up had repercussions off the field. First and foremost, Scioscia needed to explain himself:
“Ernie has been struggling a bit, and we wanted to give them a fresh look,” Scioscia said. “They haven’t seen Bedrock yet. We had confidence he was going to get it done, and if we needed Ernie to bail him out, he was there.”
“He’s in the big leagues, he’s ready, his makeup is fine,” Scioscia said of Bedrosian. “He didn’t look rattled. We felt very confident Cam would make his pitches. A couple just got away.”
Scioscia is right, Frieri had been struggling. Want to know who else had been struggling? Cam Bedrosian! It is also true that they hadn’t seen Bedrosian yet, but they hadn’t really seen Morin much either. Besides, having not seen a pitcher before is only a slight edge. Talent and skill ultimately win out.
What Scioscia didn’t seem to care for was the suggestion that he was demoting Frieri from the closer role:
“I don’t think it’s any different from what we talked about,” Scioscia said when asked if Frieri is his closer. “What’s different from matching up like we talked about?”
That is just a load of bullshit. Yes, Scioscia did have a closer-by-committee earlier in the season (which was great!), but in Frieri past ten outings, he picked up six saves, blew one and pitched in the ninth inning nine times. Over that span, nobody else picked up a save. In fact, Joe Smith’s last save came all the way back on May 14th, over a month ago. Folks, Ernesto Frieri is the closer.
Was Frieri, who did not begin warming until Bourn walked in the 10th, surprised Bedrosian started the inning?
“Next question,” Frieri said. “I don’t want to say anything.”
Oh, good. Now Frieri both sucks and is pissed off that he was initially passed over for the save opportunity. It was almost as if he thought he should’ve gotten the call because, you know, HE WAS THE FUCKING CLOSER.
I legitimately don’t care who the closer is. If you’ve read MWAH for more than a few months than you know how much I hate traditional bullpen roles like closer. The only thing I hate more is when a manager is blatantly dishonest about the decisions he makes. It is plain to see that Scioscia is hiding behind the “matching up” strategy of picking a closer so he can dodge a little bit of the blame being thrown at him on this one.
This whole thing is just a gigantic mess now. Frieri looks like he is broken again and I don’t see how any manager with half a brain could ever trust him in high leverage again now that he is in his second slump of the season less than three months into the season. But because Scioscia has been so dodgy about what the bullpen roles really were, nobody really knows what the plan is moving forward.
On its own, one could make the case that this botched game was a fireable offense, and plenty of people have made that argument on Twitter. I don’t think it is quite that bad, but its close. That being said, once you factor in this and some of the other blindly moronic things he has done in really just the past month and I am really starting to understand that impulse. Things are going well enough for the Halos that firing Scioscia shouldn’t be on the table, but if this ignites a downward spiral, don’t be surprised to hear those rumblings again.