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.
The only worse thing than making bad decisions is being inconsistent about the decisions. Rational people should always come to the same conclusion when presented with the same scenario over and over. But Scioscia… no, sir! Not him. He likes to keep you guessing. You never know what he’s going to do next and he put that personality, let’s be nice and call it a “quirk,” on full display.
7/29/14 – To pinch-run or not pinch-run?
Perhaps the biggest grumble about Scioscia this week was his decision to not pinch-run for Albert Pujols in the 12th inning of Tuesday’s game. It seemed like a clear blunder at the time, but that is only because we know how the play ended.
In reality, it wasn’t an easy decision. Pujols was only on first and there were two outs with the struggling Josh Hamilton at the plate. This is already a low percentage situation for scoring a run under normal circumstances. But the degree of difficulty was ratcheted up a notch because the Orioles outfield was playing extremely deep to avoid a double on which someone could score from first, which is exactly what the Angels would’ve been hoping for had they pinch-run for the lead-footed Pujols.
Sure enough, Hamilton managed to squeeze in a double, but Pujols was not able to score. Still though, with the outfield deep, it wasn’t certain that a pinch-runner like J.B. Shuck would’ve been able to come around to score. There was certainly a chance and in an extra inning game, that is a chance, small though it might be, that you’d typically want to take. However, you are taking a much bigger chance of removing Pujols from the game and being stuck with J.B. Shuck hitting behind Mike Trout. Of course, that next plate appearance may never come up.
Factor all that together and I think Scioscia made the wrong call, but I don’t think it was an egregious enough error to harangue him for it.
7/31/14 – To pinch-run or not pinch-run? Part II
That being said, what you can get on him for is his inconsistency with the decision because two nights later, Scioscia was faced with a very similar situation.
Once again it was a tied game in the 12th inning and the Angels had gotten a runner on first with two outs. Heck, it was even the same pitcher on the mound, Ryan Webb. The variables that changed were that the runner was David Freese and the hitter was Chris Iannetta. The outfield was playing deep again.
So what did Scioscia do? He pinch-ran for Freese with Shuck. You know, the thing he didn’t do for Pujols two nights earlier. The maddening thing about this is that the already low odds of scoring here were even lower than two nights ago based on Chris Iannetta, who struggles against right-handed pitching, was up instead of Josh Hamilton.
The trade-off though is that Freese is not someone who will be sorely missed should his spot come up in the order again. No doubt, it is a big offensive drop off from Freese to McDonald, but McDonald may never (and never did) get to the plate. In between though, the Angels have at least improved their run prevention with McDonald at third. With the Pujols situation, there also would’ve been a slight defensive upgrade with Navarro taking over at first and likely a push in left field with Shuck slotting in out there.
This is just as tough a call as the first situation and I do believe Scioscia chose correctly this time around, but it is maddening that Scioscia was given the same situation twice and made two different decisions. I suppose we should take solace that he tried to correct his mistake, but it would be better if he didn’t make a mistake at all.
7/29/14 & 7/31/14 – Preserving the closer
Speaking of inconsistent, one of the classic tropes of the idiot manager is “saving your closer” in an extra innings game on the road. I like to call it the “Ned Yost Special” as he is one of the few managers who consistently falls into that trap. Alas, Scioscia looks to be joining him.
In both of the extra inning games in this series, Scioscia “saved his closer.” Huston Street didn’t pitch at all in the first game, despite being well-rested enough. Huston Street didn’t pitch until the Angels took the lead in the second game. In both contests, Cory Rasmus, the worst pitcher on the staff, pitched multiple innings before Street entered (or failed to enter) the game. That’s inexcusable.
When playing in extras on the road, the goal in the bottom of the inning should be to maximize the possibility of keeping it tied so that you can get another at-bat. That means using your best pitchers first and your worst pitchers last. Scioscia didn’t do that in either game and got burned by it once.
Increasing the frustration factor is that Scioscia knows better than that. He has brought in his closer in extra inning road games before. Back on June 19th, he had Joe Smith pitch the ninth inning of that tied game. But perhaps that’s the issue. It was just Joe Smith. Smith had only just recently supplanted Ernesto Frieri as the closer. But Huston Street is a capital-C closer, an elite closer. It really looks like Scioscia perhaps just didn’t value Smith enough or overvalued Street.