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Second Guessing Scioscia – Week 19: Old and new

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.

This week we cover topics new and old. Pitch count hand-wringing? That’s new! Bullpen usage? That’s old… so… very… old. Platooning? That’s old made anew. This weekly column? Hopefully not getting old.

8/4/14 – 122 pitches

Garrett Richards threw his first career complete game shutout, a cause for celebration. For some, it was also a cause for consternation because Richards had to throw 122 pitches to make it happen. This was a career-high for Richards, thus setting off the pitch count alarmists.

I am not a pitch count alarmist, for the most part. I have no problem, per se, with monitoring pitch counts, but I also think that a one-size-fits-all policy works. Some guys are just different. We’ve seen that C.J. Wilson can consistently throw 110+ pitches every outing with no ill effe-

OK, bad example. Think more along the lines of guys like Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander who can just throw as many pitches as they want without losing velocity or stuff. Garrett Richards is one of those guys. In this game, Richards was still hitting 96+ MPH in the ninth inning. That doesn’t mean he should be allowed to throw something crazy like 105 pitches, but going a handful of pitches over his previous career-high isn’t a huge mistake either.

Every pitcher has a level that is “too much.” Right now, we don’t know what that level is for Richards. It could turn out that 122 pitches is too much, but the Angels can’t figure that out unless they try and let him do it. It is a risk, but a small one. A single game of an elevated pitch count isn’t likely to ruin a guy.

VERDICT:
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8/5/14 – Jepsen over Street

Last week, my big contention with Scioscia was his reticence to use Huston Street in a tied game on the road in extra innings. This week, he more or less made the same mistake by opting to bring in Kevin Jepsen into the bottom of the ninth inning of a tied game. Street was rested and ready but Scioscia didn’t go to him. Sure enough, the Angels lost without ever using their best reliever.

Cardinal sin, right? Maybe not.

Part of getting the most out of your bullpen is to use your best reliever in the highest leverage situation. This was a high leverage situation, but not super high. It also wasn’t the most dangerous situation because the three batters due up that inning were Scott Van Slyke, Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis. Murderer’s Row they are not. However, due up the next inning would be a pinch-hitter (presumably Andre Ethier), Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig. If anyone got on, it would be Adrian Gonzalez with Hanley Ramirez due up if two people reached base.

Now that is a much more dire situation, especially the prospect of facing Puig. You definitely want to have your best out there to beat their best. However, for Scioscia to do that, he would have to use Jepsen to get through the ninth inning. Jepsen has been outstanding this season, so it was a pretty good bet to run him out there and hold Street for the next inning. Granted, I am assuming that he would have gone with Street and that could very well have been a faulty assumption. But let’s assume my assumption is correct. In that case, I am totally OK with this move. It didn’t work out but that doesn’t make it a bad move. Good process, bad result.

VERDICT:
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8/5/14 & 8/7/14 – I see the platoon is back in effect
I thought we were done with this whole Calhoun-Cowgill “platoon that isn’t a platoon but really is a platoon” business. What happened?

In the weeks that Collin Cowgill was on the DL after bunting a ball into his own face, Kole Calhoun was on fire (and that is not a redhead joke, as far as you know). He hit righties, he hit lefties. No problem.

Then Cowgill came back and Calhoun found himself on the bench against the first southpaw starter they would face. That southpaw was Clayton Kershaw. OK, fine. Free pass on that one. You have to pursue every advantage you can against Kershaw and there was surely a need to get Cowgill a start just to help him get his timing back.

Then Scioscia went and pulled the same stunt against Hyun-jin Ryu. Dammit.

Are we really doing this platoon nonsense again?

This is nothing against Collin Cowgill, he’s a nice fourth outfielder, but he’s been performing over his head and sooner or later he’s going to get hit over the head by the regression stick (please don’t make me quote his unsustainable BABIP too you again). Calhoun, however, has now proven himself to be consistent and dynamic force at the top of the order. You don’t screw with that.

You especially don’t screw with that against Hyun-jin Ryu. Ryu is a lefty, but he isn’t a lefty who kills arm-side hitters. His splits just don’t support the idea of loading up on right-handers as Ryu actually has a career OPS against right-handed batters that is 54 points lower than his OPS against left-handed hitters. Benching Calhoun for Cowgill is fine against the toughest of left-handed starters, but Ryu does not qualify, sorry.

Actually, I’m not sorry because I’m sure Scioscia will once again insist that this isn’t really a platoon, even if he starts Cowgill against every lefty and Calhoun against every righty. It will look like a platoon and operate like a platoon, we just won’t be allowed to call it a platoon.

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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