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.
Well, thanks to the holiday, we skipped Second Guessing Scioscia last Friday. It just seemed like the American thing to do. That doesn’t mean we are going to let him off the hook. So, in this edition
6/29/14 – I must’ve missed the part where Grilli “earned it”
When the Angels swapped Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli, Mike Scioscia was quick to come out and state that Grilli would have to “earn” himself a prominent role in the bullpen. That made a lot of sense because Grilli had been so bad in Pittsburgh that, well, they traded him for Ernesto Frieri. What doesn’t make sense is Scioscia’s definition of “earning it.” Sure, Grilli wasn’t going to get save opportunities, but he wasted no time in putting Grilli into high leverage situations.
Two games into Grilli’s Angel career, Scioscia saw fit to use him in the ninth inning of a tied game on the road against the heart of the opposition order. Granted, it was the Royals lineup, but Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez are the best KC has to offer. Scioscia is not typically one to save his closer in road games that might go into extra innings. It is one of the typical ignorant manager tropes that he seems to have fully shunned, but he fell right into it here. He should’ve been certain to use Smith here since it was the toughest part of the KC order, after all, Scioscia insists he is making his late inning relief decisions based on the actual situation. This is proof that he isn’t. He either fell back into that trope or, more likely, he wanted to give Grilli a chance to “earn it.”
As good as Smith has been this year, he isn’t a prototypical closer. Grilli is, at least in appearance. I can’t help but think that deep down Scioscia wants Grilli to pitch well enough to justify taking over as closer. Scioscia tried to force the issue in this game and it blew up in his face.
7/6/14 – Grant who?
While I understand that Mike Scioscia doesn’t have full control of the active roster, it would be nice for him to at least be aware of which players are on the active roster. I say this because I am pretty sure that Scioscia forgot that Grant Green existed. Since his latest recall, Green has been used sparingly. That isn’t all Scioscia’s fault as there have been few opportunities to use him. However, Scioscia was gifted a perfect opportunity to give Green some work when David Freese had to ride the pine for two straight games due to a minor shin injury. Instead, he gave both starts to John McDonald.
McDonald hasn’t gotten a lot of at-bats himself, but he has seen regular work as a defensive replacement for David Freese (more on that later). So it isn’t as if McDonald is in desperate need of work. He also, you know, can’t hit, so who cares if his bat gets a little bit rusty. Green though is a developing young player that needs to be getting plate appearances. For that reason it probably serves him better to be in the minors, which he is now, but at the time, giving him one or both of these starts would have been good for him.
This seems like a classic case of Scioscia deferring to a veteran, an old habit of his that may never die. I’m willing to consider the possibility that Scioscia has major issue with Green’s defensive issues, but why not just use McDonald as a defensive replacement for him later in the game like he already does for Freese?
7/7/14 – The platoon that allegedly never was
Remember when Kole Calhoun first came off the disabled list and Mike Scioscia swore up and down several times that Calhoun and Cowgill were NOT in a platoon. He insisted that he was just going to mix Cowgill in some of the time. Scioscia then proceeded to “mix” Cowgill into Calhoun’s lineup spot every single time the Angels faced a left-handed starter. If it walks like a platoon and it quacks like a platoon, it is a platoon… of ducks, I guess.
It wasn’t until July 7th that Scioscia saw fit to “mix” Cowgill onto the bench against a left-handed starter and start Calhoun instead. It was his first start against a southpaw since ?. I’d like to think that Scioscia finally looked at Calhoun’s splits both this year and throughout his career at every level of play and realized that Kole has never had a problem with left-handed pitcher and decided that he should just let him play everyday since Calhoun is much more talented than the overachieving Cowgill. However, I wasn’t born yesterday. The obvious reason for the change of heart is that Calhoun has been beating the ever-loving snot out of the baseball the last few weeks. There may not be a hotter hitter in baseball right now and if there is one thing Scioscia has never been scared to do is ride a hot hand.
Sometimes though you just have to accept the that you got the outcome you wanted, even if the process of getting there wasn’t what you wanted.
7/9/14 – Premature defensive replacement
Speaking of those McDonald defensive replacements. I have no problem with Scioscia subbing him in for David Freese. Freese has been pretty sure-handed this year, but is generally rated as a below average to poor defender at the hot corner. Plus, he has been dealing with nagging injuries, so the less time on the field the better.
The problem I have is when the defensive replacement becomes an offensive replacement. Typically a defensive replacement enters the game after it is clear that the superior offensive player is unlikely to get another plate appearance. Not in this case though. Since June 22nd, McDonald has entered as a defensive replacement at third base and subsequently received a plate appearance five different times. Two of those times were McDonald replacing Grant Green, but I’m not sure if that makes it more or less excusable.
While Freese has been struggling at the plate this year, he’s been hitting well for the last month and Green certainly seems to be a capable bat. McDonald, however, has a long and storied career of being a comically poor hitter. Scioscia should be going out of his way to keep the bat out of his hands. Having him hit hardly seems to be worth the defensive upgrade over Freese or Green. Again, neither of them are good fielders, but neither of them are glaring liabilities either which McDonald is at the plate.