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.
There are some weeks when it is hard to find a set of situations to second-guess Scioscia on. Oh, sure, he has minor hiccups each week, but I try and focus on issues I haven’t already beaten into the ground or that just aren’t that important. This week, there were no such problems. In fact, I had to exercise some editorial discretion and omit certain second-guessable events and even still this post is going to exceed 1,500 words. Not so coincidentally, the Angels went 3-4 this week.
7/18/14 – Wait, isn’t that the whole point of having a LOOGY?
Coming into the season, we heard all about how it was so sneaky smart for Jerry Dipoto to run out a rotation that included three southpaws. However, it was believed that he made an egregious error by not having a reliable lefty in the bullpen. Why? Because the AL West was loaded with big, scary left-handed hitters. You know, like Robinson Cano.
Lo and behold the Angels now have a quality left-hander in the bullpen by the name of Joe Thatcher! Wonder of wonders there was an ideal opportunity to have Thatcher face Cano in a critical situation! Just the way Dipoto drew it up! So what did Mike Scioscia do?
He left Mike Morin in to face Cano. Mike Morin, as you surely know, is not left-handed. Mike Morin, as you probably know, has a huge platoon split and not in a good way. Mike Morin, as you probably guessed, surrendered a base hit to Cano. Oops!
Scioscia quickly remedied the mistake by having Thatcher come in to retire fellow left-hander Kyle Seager, ending the threat. This only served to underscore though that Thatcher was both available and ready to enter the game, yet Scioscia decided against it with the most dangerous lefty in the Mariners lineup. Why? I don’t know.
The best excuse I can come up with is that there was only a runner on first, not in scoring position, and two outs. Perhaps Scioscia was hoping Morin could escape the situation so that Thatcher could be preserved for a later high leverage situation against an almost entirely left-handed Seattle lineup. Still, I’m not sure there is a much better situation than facing the best lefty on the opposing runner with the go-ahead run on first in the seventh inning.
Or maybe Scioscia just forgot that he has a lefty now since he’s gone most of the season without one.
7/19/14 – The one time a sac bunt makes sense
In this space, Scioscia has been taken to task on a number of occasions for his affection for the sacrifice bunt, which he has managed to somewhat curb this season. Unfortunately, that also has led to him not ordering a bunt in one of the rare occasions where one would be perfectly acceptable, nay, preferred.
The scenario was the bottom of the ninth, no outs and a runner on second in a tied game. One run and the game is over. Because of that, the sac bunt becomes almost optimal. But, wait, don’t we hate sac bunts?
Yes, yes we do. That’s because by giving up the out, the sacrifice reduces the overall run expectancy, as in lowering the odds of scoring more than one run. But one run, now that’s where the sac bunt comes into play.
It’s simple, really. As Tom Tango taught us, with a runner on second and no outs, a team has a 34.8% chance of scoring at least one run. But with a runner on third and one out, a team has a 47.8% chance of scoring at least one run. And that’s all the Angels would care about in this instance. They don’t care that with a runner on third and one out they have a lower chance of scoring 2 or more runs, which is the normal argument against the bunt.
Alas, Scioscia was either not aware of this or, more likely, didn’t trust David Freese to get a bunt down. He also didn’t have any one on the bench he could rely on to bunt well, as Grant Green, Hank Conger and an injured Erick Aybar were his only bench options thanks to the team opting to carry 13 pitchers, which is stupid, but that’s a different argument for a different time.
7/21/14 – Put down the bat and step away from the batter’s box
While it wasn’t in a big moment or particularly damaging, this might’ve been the bad decision that drew my ire the most this week.
John McDonald is a lot of things: a good fielder, a strong clubhouse presence and… OK, well maybe he isn’t a lot of things. One thing I know that he is NOT is anything resembling a big league hitter. For his surprisingly long career, McDonald has produced a .264 wOBA. Seriously, he can’t hit. As such, he should be allowed to so much as touch a bat.
Alas, he was conscripted into action for a few games this week when Erick Aybar tweaked his groin. Fair enough. It is either McDonald’s excellent glove and poor bat at a premium defensive position or Grant Green’s good bat and poor glove. Scioscia started McDonald, opting for run prevention. No objection.
However, things change through the course of the game. The Angels were trailing 4-2 by the time McDonald’s third plate appearance came around. There were two outs and nobody on, so Scioscia let McDonald hit for himself. Naturally, he made an struck out (for the third time, by the way). Now McDonald was free to stay in the field and… prevent the Angels from allowing more runs, I guess.
Here’s the thing. Run prevention is great, but time was running out for the Angels to score the two runs they needed. Every out is of critical importance at this point and letting McDonald hit right there, low leverage though it might have been, was tantamount to burning an out. Pinch-hitting with Green would’ve given the Angels a chance to get a runner on base and roll the lineup over to the likes of Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout. There is a run prevention sacrifice later, but that’s worth it if the Angels are able to score a run or more. Anything is better than McDonald bat in that situation.
7/22/14 – This was not one of those times
Remember how above I said there are rare occasions when a sac bunt makes sense? This was not one of those times. This should never be one of those times.
Once again, the Angels found the game tied.
So far so good.
They had runners on second and first with nobody out.
No objections yet.
Hank Conger is at the plate.
Hmm, starting to get a little uncomfortable.
It was the third inning.
With hindsight, one could justify trying to sac bunt to scratch a run out against Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched a very good game. But it was the third inning. He hadn’t even gone through the lineup once yet. It is far too early to press the panic button and play for one run. Even though Hank Conger has been slumping for a long time and is slightly prone to GIDPs, it doesn’t make sense to intentionally try and lower the overall run expectancy from 1.4151 to 1.2599. It makes even less try and do it with a batter that isn’t good at bunting because, oh by the way, Hank Conger can’t bunt. Coming into this game, he had only laid down four successful sacrifice bunts in his MLB career. This is a pertinent point because Conger failed to get the bunt down twice and got stuck in a terrible count, leading directly to a strikeout and a run expectancy of 0.8542.
The Angels did not score in the inning. #Buntfucking at its finest.
7/24/14 – This was not one of those times either
Bloodied but unbowed by Conger’s failed sacrifice bunt two days ago, Scioscia once again sent Conger to the dish with runners on first and second and no outs to lay down a sacrifice. Once again the game was tied, but at least it was the fifth inning this time, so that’s progress.
Hank actually did his job and got the run expectancy-killing bunt down this time. The very next hitter smacked a two-run single, making Scioscia look smart to the uneducated.
The normal anti-bunting issues aside, they key details I left out were that Conger dropped that bunt right after Max Scherzer had allowed three consecutive hits and uncorked a wild pitch. Scherzer, the defending AL Cy Young winner, was falling apart and Scioscia gave him a reprieve and granted him out entirely on purpose.
The worst part is that Scioscia is still going to look back at this, see that two run scored and use it as evidence that he should bunt more.