Second-guessing Scioscia – Week 3

Welcome to Second-Guessing Scioscia! As you might have surmised, it is a 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 Scioscia is not infallible and hope to use this series to bring light to the decisions in which Scioscia 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.

4/12/14 – Fernando Salas strikes again

Yeah, it is going to be another one of those weeks where we bang on Scioscia’s bullpen management, but, well, it is kind of a big problem.

There is an old saying that the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. When it comes to Fernando Salas in high leverage situations, Scioscia is totally out of his gourd. Having already been burnt twice in situations where Salas was brought into a game mid-inning with the tying or go-ahead run in scoring position, Scioscia went and did it again in this one. Salas came in needing to get just one out in order to protect the one-run lead, but he coughed up a single to Anthony Recker. Just like that the Angels were down one.

This is simply perplexing. Salas has been nothing but awful as an Angel yet Scioscia somehow has faith in him. Michael Kohn has been MUCH better this season and was available, yet Scioscia passed. He also could have gone to Joe Smith early and had him get four outs instead of three, but he didn’t. There is no defense for this decision.

4/14/14 – Why not let Joe Smith go two innings?

Speaking of Joe Smith getting more than three outs, that reared its head in a really bad way in this game as well. Nobody would’ve cared much had Frieri not blown this game by surrendering that homer in the above video, but it still speaks to the larger problem of Scioscia being boxed in by traditional rules of handling relievers.

Smith breezed through the eighth inning on just eleven pitches. Given his talent level and how well he pitched in that inning, some wanted Smith to just roll it over into the ninth. If we look just at this appearance, I can see why Scioscia didn’t consider it.

The main issue with that strategy is risking abuse of Smith who had pitched the game before and was making his third appearance in four days. That’s a heavy workload for a reliever, so it makes sense not to tax him by wringing another inning out of him when your closer, who had been untouchable in his last four appearances, is available. It is also worth noting that Smith only made one appearance in 2013 where he recorded more than three outs and only two other appearances where he pitched from one inning into the next. A lot of relievers will tell you that the even with a low-pitch count, the act of getting back up for a second inning of work is what can be the most physically demanding aspect of this decision. That being said, Smith has been used in longer outings quite a bit more earlier in his career, but he hasn’t really been stretched out to handle that load this year.

That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be stretched out though. That’s something the team could’ve prepped him for in the pre-season. The same goes for all the relievers. Typically, Scioscia only tabs one or two guys at the bottom of the depth chart who he’s willing to use for multi-inning appearances. Right now, that looks to be Salas and whoever the long reliever du jour is. That is something they should look to address, especially with their better relievers, not their worst.

4/15/14 – The odd Jose Alvarez LOOGY appearance

Poor reliever choice strikes again. This time, I think Scioscia legitimately just out-thought himself.

In the wake of Joe Smith’s shocking meltdown, Scioscia had an opportunity to try and stop the bleeding. The bases were loaded with no outs and Josh Reddick was due up. This is an untenable situation, but Scioscia somehow managed to make it worse by calling on left-handed Jose Alvarez to face Reddick.

The problem is that there was no way in the world that Reddick was going to stay in the game. Oakland’s whole offensive strategy is built around exploiting the platoon advantage. Sure enough, they sent up right-handed Derek Norris to replace Reddick. This was a double-whammy because Reddick has been in a deep, deep slump this year while Norris has been hitting well. So not only did the Angels not get the lefty-on-lefty match-up, they also wound up facing a superior batter. D’oh!

But, wait! There’s more! Let’s also not forget about the situation. The bases were loaded with no outs. If you want to avoid more runs being scored, you need strikeouts and groundballs. Alvarez is neither a strikeout pitcher nor a groundball pitcher. He is also probably the least talented pitcher in the bullpen. Meanwhile, Michael Kohn came in the very next batter after Alvarez surrendered a two-run single, so clearly Kohn was an option. Kohn is both a better pitcher and a high strikeout guy, so why not just let him face the beleaguered Reddick?

Nonsense. Pure nonsense.

4/15/14 – Mike Trout steal leading to Albert Pujols intentional walk
Alright, let’s give the bullpen a break. One of the arguments that bubbled up this week is one that really shouldn’t have.

In the bottom of the 11th inning, the Angels were trailing by one run. Mike Trout reached on a one-out single. Knowing the Angels needed a run to avoid the loss, he did the logical thing and stole second base so that he could be in scoring position. With his speed, just about any base hit that leaves the infield would’ve scored him. For some reason, people had a problem with that.

Their objection was that with first base now open, Albert Pujols would be intentionally walked, which he was. That meant Howie Kendrick would be batting instead of Pujols which is an obvious downgrade. That’s a valid point, but it completely ignores basic run expectancy.

With a runner on first and one out, the run expectancy for the Angels was 0.49. With runners on first and second with one out, that shoots all the way up to 0.84. They needed one run to keep the game going and worked themselves into a run expectancy very close to that. That is well worth the drop off from Pujols to Kendrick. Sure, Howie has a propensity to hit into double plays, but so does Pujols, so playing that card is a flawed argument. There is also the very obvious point that by walking Pujols, the A’s willingly put the winning run on base. That’s a gift horse you don’t look in the mouth.

Run, Mikey. Run all day long.

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.