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Second Guessing Scioscia – Week 22: Do the splits

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.

A big credit is owed to Mike Scioscia this week. He’s really start to embrace the sabermetric revolution. We saw this week how Scioscia has used statistical splits to influence his decision making. We’re not just talking about the basic lefty-righty splits either. He’s getting into some real deep stuff. He may not actually be getting into it correctly and using it the right way, but at least he’s trying. It’s the thought that counts, right?

8/28/14 - A hook for Hector
I’ve joked a lot lately about how Hector Santiago has gone so long without pitching into the seventh inning that he might actually now believe that baseball games are only six innings long.

Ever since Santiago has returned to the rotation, he has not once pitched into the seventh. In fact, he’s only done it once all season, back in April. From a pitch count perspective, Santiago has only breached the century mark once since his return as well. Mike Scioscia has made comments to suggest that Santiago just isn’t stretched out enough to go much longer than that.

That strikes me as dubious at best. I’m pretty sure it is disingenuous as well. Santiago has thrown 90+ pitches in nine of his twelve starts since the start of June. Conditioning works different for every pitcher, but that sure seems like enough to have the requisite stamina to throw 100+ pitches. I wouldn’t go pushing him to 120, but I seriously doubt his arm will fall off if he throws 108 pitches in an outing.

What I think the real issue is here is that Santiago just isn’t that good. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Against righties, Santiago has allowed a .676 OPS versus a .555 OPS against lefties.
  • 10 of his 11 homers allowed have come against righties.
  • The first time through the order, Santiago allows a .609 OPS.
  • The second time through the order, Santiago allows a .600 OPS.
  • The third time through the order, Santiago allows a .900 OPS!
  • His overall strikeout rate is 21.1% but the third time through the order it falls to 14.7%.

Holy splits, Batman! The platoon split isn’t shocking, but it certainly shows that there is no real motivation for Scioscia to expose Santiago to more righties than he has to. If anyone is going to hurt Santiago badly, it is going to be a right-handed hitter.

But that time through the order split, yeesh. We’ve talked about the time through the order penalty before, but this is pretty extreme. It is obviously a small sample size, but it really goes to show how much he loses his effectiveness as batters see him more. This actually supports Scioscia, though not for the reason Scioscia claims.

It isn’t that Santiago is physically incapable of going 100+ pitches. His arm can handle it. The problem is that his stuff apparently can’t. Maybe that is because of fatigue or maybe it is because he throws so many different pitches and none of them are actually that good. Whatever the case, the numbers clearly show that from the fifth inning on, Scioscia should be ready to send Hector to the shower at the first sign of trouble.

This isn’t a one-year fluke either. His career OPS the third time through the order is .845. He just isn’t a pitcher who has learned to be effective later in the game. As such, Scioscia is more than right to pull him early, even if he isn’t exactly doing it for the right reason.

VERDICT:
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8/28/14 & 8/29/14 - Split ‘em like Beckham
When the Angels acquired Gordon Beckham, it was kind of a weird acquisition. Eventually, the team began to explain that they though Beckham could help since he could play three infield positions and mashed lefties. That makes since given that his wOBA against southpaws this year is .335 versus .243 against righties. Easy explanation, right?

Not so fast, my friend. Beckham compiled that nice line against lefties in just 102 plate appearances and built it on the back of a .329 BABIP. His overall career BABIP is .276. Speaking of career numbers, it turns out that this lefty-crushing thing is new to him. In his career, his platoon splits can barely be more identical. Against lefties his slash line is .243/.311/.372 and against righties it is .245/.304/.375.

Now, his splits haven’t been even every year up until now. In 2013, he actually had a substantial reverse platoon splits (.328 wOBA against RHP and .227 against LHP). In other words, this whole theory behind acquiring Beckham because he is a southpaw killer is entirely based on a random one-year fluctuation.

That’s actually probably more of a second-guess of Dipoto than Scioscia, but Scioscia bares some culpability here. He has been at the forefront of parroting this misinformed justification. Even though the data doesn’t back up the statement, it is a statement that Scioscia appears to fully buy into.

That is why it makes no damned sense that Scioscia went and started Beckham against right-handed pitching on two consecutive nights. It doesn’t matter that the basis for the logic is flawed, what matters is that Scioscia claimed to buy into that logic and then immediately threw it out the window.

VERDICT:
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8/29/14 - More Cowgill
Enough of all this splits non-sense. This one was just good old fashioned managerial brain farting.

Bottom of the 10th inning, the game is tied and Albert Pujols is on third with nobody out. If Pujols isn’t the slowest baserunner in baseball, he’s awfully close. In this scenario, just about any ball in play can score him. But with the infield and outfield both playing in, there is a little margin for error in trying to score. The last thing the Angels could afford is to not score because the runner on third is too slow to score on a semi-shallow flyball or a on a looper into the outfield.

If only Scioscia had someone on the bench who was much faster to run for Pujols. Oh, right. He did. Collin Cowgill was just sitting there, probably staring at Scioscia wondering why he wasn’t used as a pinch-runner for Pujols. It ultimately didn’t matter because Howie Kendrick hit a deep flyball to score him on a sac fly. But why take the chance?

The only justification I can think of was Scioscia didn’t want to lose Pujols for the rest of the game should the Angels fail to score. They could’ve moved Calhoun to first, so they had defensive coverage, but losing Pujols’ bat is certainly a concern. It just isn’t one big enough to justify letting him run for himself in such a high value situation. If that run scores, the game is over and you don’t have to worry about losing Pujols. Scioscia wasn’t playing to win though, he was thinking more about what would happen if it remained tied. That’s a pretty good way to make yourself not win. As some stupid old football coach once said (probably), “If you don’t play to win, you play to lose.”

You really play to lose when Gary Disarcina is your third base coach and liable to try and send the super slow Pujols on a ball that is far too shallow for someone of his sluggish speed to be running on.

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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