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.
Sacrifice is said to be a virtue. That might be true if you are applying for sainthood or trying to appease your heathen gods in an effort to avoid a catastrophic volcano explosion, but in baseball, it is generally a negative. This is a generally accepted sabermetric principle, but one that continues to be lost on Mike Scioscia in several facets of the game. This week, each of those facets and his failings were on full display.
8/9/14 – The side effects of sacrifice
Look, if you read this weekly column then you know my feelings on sacrifice bunting. There’s no point in rehashing the run expectancy involved. You get it by now, I hope. Instead, let’s focus on the other side effects of Scioscia and his misadventures in #buntfucking.
Rewind to the 10th inning of last week’s marathon game. The Angels got the leadoff man on, so Scioscia ordered a sacrifice bunt from Kole Calhoun. There’s a justification to be made for playing for one run, but there isn’t a justification for the series of events that this triggered. Specifically, with the runner on second and first base open, Boston predictably intentionally walked Mike Trout. That hurts.
The sac bunt not only cost the Angels an out, but also took the bat out of the hands of the best player in the world. Yes, they have a runner in scoring position now, but they also have Albert Pujols at the plate in a double play situation. Albert didn’t GIDP, but he didn’t get a hit either, which brought Josh Hamilton to the plate. With that came southpaw Craig Breslow entering the game, a totally foreseeable move from Boston.
As you already know, the Angels didn’t score in this inning. Maybe they still wouldn’t have without the bunt, but I’d rather take my chance in an inning in which Trout gets to swing the bat.
8/10/14 – I ain’t afraid of no Napoli
Mike Napoli has been a scourge on the Angels ever since the misguided trade that sent him away. He’s raked against them at every given opportunity. He’s a good hitter that is especially good against the Angels, but that doesn’t make him so fearsome that he should only be pitched to when unavoidable.
In this game, Scioscia, with Hector Santiago pitching, elected to give Napoli an intentional walk in the top of the fourth inning of a scoreless game. What?
There was a base open and a left-handed hitter on deck, so there was some advantage to be gained, but not big enough to overcome now having a runner on first and second with one out. And let’s be honest, the Angel offense was struggling to score at all in recent weeks, so the Halos should be mindful of deliberately increasing the run expectancy of the opposition. That intentional walk only serves to increase the odds of a big inning for Boston, especially with the walk and homer prone Santiago on the mound.
The move ended up looking good because Santiago got the next two batters out, but not before Johnson ripped a deep drive to right-center that the outfield was able to catch, fortunately. If that ball drops, it is two runs for Boston rather than one and it would’ve been Scioscia’s fault.
8/13/14 – Self-sacrifice
Mike Scioscia’s love affair with the sacrifice bunt has now reached the point of becoming contagious. People are worried about an ebola epidemic, but I’m far more concerned with the plague spreading in the Angels clubhouse. In this game, Howie Kendrick decided, all on his own, to drop down a sacrifice bunt with a runner on second and nobody out in the bottom of the, I can barely say it, second inning.
The bunt itself is a problem. It is just way too early to be giving up an out. The guy doing the bunting is also a very poor choice because there are few players in baseball better at hitting a groundball to the opposite field than Kendrick. He had a good chance of moving the runner over in the course of a normal at-bat by just grounding out like he typically does or, you know, actually getting a hit.
The bigger problem is that Howie felt empowered to employ this strategy all by himself. There are very rare circumstances in which a sacrifice bunt is actually called for and if Scioscia can barely figure that out for himself, I really doubt his players can. If left uncontrolled, Angels players are going to be dropping down sac bunts all over the place and heading back to the dugout looking for some sort of approving nod from Scioscia for doing something that is ultimately counter-productive.