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.
It was a rough week for the Angels and a rough week for Scioscia, in particular. For the first time in the brief history of this column, we will actually wag the finger at Scioscia for NOT going to the bullpen as well as wrap his knuckles for falling back into some old habits we thought he had broken.
5/5/14 – #buntfucking
To the credit of Mike Scioscia, the Angels have avoided the sac bunt this year. In fact, they’ve only laid down seven sac bunts this year (though that doesn’t count blown sac bunts, and I can think of one or two), and a big chunk of those have come in the last few weeks when Scioscia ran out of patience with J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill making so many outs. I’m not saying that I approve, but I understand.
He fell back into his old ways in this game though and did so in a particularly frustrating fashion. In the eighth inning of a tied game, the Halos got the leadoff man on via a five-pitch walk from control-challenged Shawn Kelley, with the only strike being the customary 3-0 pitch down the middle. So what did Scioscia do? He had Aybar try and bunt! The first pitch was a ball, so maybe that would be a sign to call it off since Kelley was obviously having a problem.
Well, he didn’t do that. Aybar showed bunt but took a strike. Still not convinced, Scioscia left the bunt on for the next pitch, which Aybar mercifully bunted foul. I nearly lost my mind at this point when Gubicza chimed in that he wouldn’t be surprised if Scioscia still had Aybar bunt with two strikes. Fortunately for my sanity, that didn’t happen. Aybar ended up grounding out to second, advancing the runner. Just as good as a sac bunt.
5/6/14 – 4th time through the order
This might be one of the most egregious decisions Scioscia has made all season. Mike Scioscia, perhaps gunshy after being burned by the bullpen so frequently this year, has decided that he is going to squeeze every last pitch out his starters. That was on full display when he sent C.J. Wilson back out for the eighth inning of this game despite the fact that Wilson had already thrown 106 pitches. Wilson is a horse, having thrown 111 or more pitches in every start this year, but Scioscia seems to be taking that 111-pitch mark as more of a mandate than just something C.J. is capable of.
Horse or not, a guy just isn’t going to be as good after throwing that many pitches. He’s going to be even worse when he faces the same batting order for the fourth time in the game, which C.J. was in the inning. It’s a pretty basic finding of sabermetric research that the more times a pitcher face an order, the bigger of an advantage the hitter’s gain. Yet Scioscia let Wilson face the toughest part of the Yankee order for the fourth time in a tied game that he was not dominating in and was already at an elevated pitch count.
With diminished stuff that the hitters had already seen three times, the Times Through the Order Penalty bit Wilson hard. He hit Jeter with a 2-2 pitch, Carlos Beltran followed that with single up the middle and Soriano broke the tie with an RBI single through the left side. None of the balls were particularly well hit, but that’s kind of the point. Wilson was still hittable and when the ball gets put in play, bad things can happen, even on middling contact. Sure enough, bad things happened and it was entirely Scioscia’s fault.
5/6/14 – Who’s warming up?
Not be overshadowed by the idiocy of leaving Wilson in was Scioscia’s plan for bailing Wilson out if he got in trouble. For some reason that I can’t even begin to understand, once C.J. let a baserunner on, Scioscia called down to the bullpen to have Nick Maronde(!) and Kevin Jepsen(!!) warm up. Mind you, this was a tied game at this point. Why in green hell would you warm up your two worst relievers? Everyone in the bullpen but Frieri had at least on day’s rest, so there was nobody off limits, really. Even if Scioscia wanted to go matchy-matchy, he already had a lefty on the mound and there are much better right-handed options than Jepsen.
Oh, but we’re not done. Scioscia cranked the confusion up to 11 by having Maronde and Jepsen sit down so that he could warm up Michael Kohn, arguably the Angels’ second-best reliever this year, AFTER the Angels had given up the lead. That’s when this happened to me:
Believe it or not, there is a third act to this. Even though Kohn was now warmed up and the Angels tied the game, Scioscia went to Frieri to pitch the ninth inning of the re-tied game. Going with your closer in a tied game in an admirable move… except when your “closer” isn’t really the closer because he has been struggling all year and when that closer would have to pitch for the fourth time in five nights. If there is one thing we’ve learned about Frieri, and Scioscia admits this, it is that Frieri really starts struggling when he is tired… like he would be pitching the fourth time in five nights. But did Scioscia care? NOPE.