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.
We’ve got a little something for everyone this week: pinch-hitting strategies, batting order antics, bullpen management and forgetting about players who are on the roster. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll love.
Also, starting this week, we’ll be including a grade for each decision by Scioscia using our SciosciaFaceTM ranking system!
4/26/14 – 8th inning substitutions
Scioscia got himself caught in a bit of a chess match in the eighth inning of this game. The only problem is that Scioscia was playing checkers, failing to think several moves ahead. The troubles started when Scioscia decided to let David Freese face righty Shawn Kelley. Freese was still stuck in a deep slump at the time, but Kelley had been a bit shaky in his outing, so there was some sense to it even though he had Raul Ibanez on the bench. Scioscia decided to save Ibanez to hit for J.B. Shuck instead. Girardi countered by bringing in lefty Matt Thornton to face Ibanez (and probably would’ve done the same if Shuck hit for himself).
Either way, the Angels were going to have two batters hit without the platoon advantage as one imagines Thornton would’ve come in and faced Ibanez if he hit for Freese instead and then continued on to face Shuck. Honestly, that is a tough call to make Freese is a better hitter than Shuck, but Shuck has no real platoon split. They also just needed a single in that situation to get the tying run across, so going with a high contact guy like Shuck against a low strikeout guy like Thornton strikes me as a slightly better bet.
4/29/14 – Finally using Kohn instead of Salas
We’ve seen this situation so many times before this season. Jered Weaver got himself in trouble in the sixth inning of the game by allowing a two-run homer followed by a double and a single. That meant Scioscia was going to go to the bullpen up by two with runners on first and third, one out and two lefties due up. Who would he call upon?
Earlier in the year, it would’ve been Fernando Salas. Scioscia is 0-for-4 on that move. Did he learn his lesson? Yes! Would Scioscia perhaps then become a slave to platoon match-ups and go with the very shaky, but left-handed Nick Maronde? No!
Those were both shocking answers. I’m actually surprised he didn’t go with Maronde, but he justifiably lacks faith in the youngster, especially when it comes to not uncorking a wild pitch with a runner on third. No, instead he called upon Michael Kohn, which is great news because he is (for the time being) the second-best reliever on the roster. He’s also highly effective against left-handed hitters and misses a lot of bats. Getting strikeouts is critical when you want to avoid a ball in play that could score the run from third via a sac fly or weak grounder to a middle infielder. Kohn didn’t get that one-out strikeout, but he did get Giambi to lineout right into the teeth of the shift (which Weaver had been raging about earlier in the game). Murphy walked, but that left Kohn to face righty Yan Gomes, whom he did strike out. The plan worked, mostly, to perfection.
4/29/14 – Howie Kendrick batting leadoff
Not to tip my hand on the verdict, but I loved this move. Ever since Kole Calhoun went on the DL, the leadoff job has been shared by J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill with a brief cameo from Erick Aybar. What that amounted to is the worst hitters in the lineup getting to spend the most time in an important spot in the order where they get the maximum number of plate appearances. These players should be hidden, not featured.
Finally, Scioscia clued in to that fact and made the bold move to put Kendrick in that spot even though he had almost no experience there. However, Kendrick is really the best choice from what the Angels have to choose from. Kendrick is not an OBP machine, but his career mark is .331, which is passable. More importantly, Kendrick is also pretty consistent. If he goes south, he isn’t going to end up with a .177 OBP like a certain “gritty” outfielder I know.
The leadoff job is also more well-suited for Kendrick’s offensive profile. Howie has been one of the most groundball-heavy hitters in the majors for several years running. That leads to more hits, but fewer extra-base hits and more double plays. Those GIDPs were always a big problem when Howie was put in a position to drive in runs, like when he was batting clean-up in the weeks before he got bumped up to leadoff. Also, while he isn’t a burner, Kendrick has good speed and can steal bases. In fact, he already has as many steals this year as he had in all of 2013.
This is just a better role for him, at least given the current state of the roster. Kole Calhoun can do a lot of the same things with a higher OBP, so expect Howie to cede the role back to him, but until then, he should do a fine job of keeping it warm.
4/30/14 – Where’s Morin?
Mike Morin got called up to the majors on 4/27. He was seen by many as a savior for the bullpen. However, he didn’t get into any of the first three games he was on the active roster for. This displeased the angry mob. Relax, people. Mike Scioscia is going to make a rookie earn his stripes as it is, and he isn’t about to throw a guy out there to make his MLB debut in high leverage and that was really all there was those first three games. The last thing he wants is Morin working his way through those first-time nerves with the game on the line. Morin will get a chance to prove himself. Given Scioscia’s career-long habit of falling in love with one reliever, there is even a good chance that Morin will be near the top of the depth chart before we know it. So, you know, settle down and give it some time.