Second Guessing Scioscia – Week 21: Relapse

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.

Old habits and addictions can be hard to quit. That is true for all addicts, even those who only have to attend Bad Baseball Managing Anonymous. Mike Scioscia is one such person and he had himself a few relapses this week.

8/18/14 – Squeezing out every last drop
One of the worst habits that Mike Scioscia had the last few years when the bullpen was in shambles was trying to get as many outs as humanly possible out of his starters. More often than not, this led to the Angels starter starting an inning, quickly getting in trouble and ceding the inning to a bad reliever who had now been placed in a high leverage situation.

Scioscia has largely avoided that pitfall this year, even with the new and improved Angels bullpen. In this game, however, he fell back to his old habit.

Despite being at 107 pitches through five innings and generally pitching poorly, having allowed five walks and four hits), Scioscia trotted C.J. Wilson out to start the sixth inning, nursing a 2-1 lead. This seemed like a logical place to cut his losses with bullpen and turn the game over to his terrific relief corps, but Scioscia opted not to do that. Well, not until Wilson predictably allowed a single after getting one out.

So why did Scioscia slip? It certainly wasn’t matchups as the three hitters due up were right-handed. They were, however, three poor hitters, so Scioscia might have thought that he could steal three cheap outs and save the bullpen. The latter part was probably the true motivation though.

Joe Smith and Huston Street had each pitched three days in a row and four of the last five days. They were declared unavailable for this game, so Scioscia was working with a short relief staff. Still, Fernando Salas was on five days rest and Cory Rasmus was on eight days rest. Those are two arms that could have sucked up two innings of work. Those probably aren’t the guys you want in the game, but the better arms were fairly well rested, too. Morin had only pitched once since coming off the DL and Jason Grilli had thrown once in the last five days.

Unless Scioscia was suffering PTSD from the 19-inning marathon and was concerned about the possibilities of extra innings, there is no real reason to have tried so hard to avoid the bullpen. Scioscia’s intentions were good and all and it didn’t come back to bite him, but I just don’t want to see him making this a habit again.


8/19/14 – Papi-phobia
Speaking of bad habits, we have to deal with this crap again. Barely, there is no real new information from when Scioscia intentionally walked David Ortiz to put the winning run on base the other week.

I guess because it didn’t burn Scioscia that one time, he figured he could get away with it again once more. He did, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea. Just like last time, it brought down the Angels’ win probability by three percentage points.

The one mitigating factor I can think of, and I’m really stretching here, is that Ortiz had been on fire of late. The Angels could barely get him out at all in this series. I guess if you believe in riding your own “hot hand” player then you should also believe in avoiding the other team’s “hot hand” player. There is some logic in that. Barely.

Yeah, I know. That excuse doesn’t fly with me either. STOP PUTTING THE WINNING RUN ON BASE ON PURPOSE!


8/20/14 – Overusing the Street
As mentioned in the Wilson situation, the Angels bullpen was starting to get overworked coming into this series. Well, in the games following, the bullpen definitely got overworked. Just look at the recent bullpen usage. Mike Morin, Kevin Jepsen and Cory Rasmus were the only relievers that came into this game that hadn’t worked the previous two days or four of the last five days. There weren’t a lot of good options for Scioscia in this one.

One of the jobs of a manager is to make sure that you don’t ruin your assets, especially your best ones. So when he called on Huston Street to pitch the ninth inning of an 8-3 game, it was a real headscratcher. Street is far and away the team’s best reliever, which really says something. By using him at all in this game, you are asking him to pitch for the fifth time in six days and sixth time in eight days. That’s a substantial workload for guy with a long history of injury problems.

As you might notice in that bullpen usage chart, the inning Street pitched was a low leverage situation. Street entered the game at 0.21 on the leverage index which is really low. Like, you might be able to get away with a position player pitching low. Yet Scioscia opted to go with his overworked closer.

To be fair, he didn’t have many other options since Richards went down in the second inning here. All he had left were Street and Grilli. Clearly, he should’ve gone with Grilli. It would have been the third game in a row and fourth game in five days for Grilli, but if you are going to risk hurting one of the two, it should be Grilli. Nothing personal, Jason. And, for what it is worth, Grilli had only thrown a combined 25 pitches in those three outings, so it wasn’t as if he was ridden hard in those outings.

The secondary effect of this choice is that it once again meant that Street would be unavailable the next game. As would Joe Smith, who pitched the previous inning. Had Scioscia opted for Grilli here, he would have at least had Street for Thursday’s game. Instead, he had neither and was forced to turn to, you guessed it, Jason Grilli to save a 2-0 game on Thursday!

In summary, Scioscia used the clearly superior Huston Street to “save” a five-run lead so that he could preserve the clearly inferior Jason Grilli to save a two-run game the next day. Brilliant asset management, Sosh.


Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the founder and Supreme Overlord of 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.