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.
This week, we see that regression applies to managers too. Mike Scioscia had been so progressive in his lineup construction and bullpen usage over the last month and the Angels, coincidentally?, started winning a bunch of games. Then this week rolled around and suddenly Scisocia was back to some of his bad old habits. Perhaps he just fell off the wagon for a brief moment, but maybe this is the start of a long, dark trip down the road to #smrtbaseball. Before you know it, Scioscia will be sac bunting every inning, intentionally walking Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded, refusing to use his closer in extra innings and doing mountains of coke in a motel room with three hookers. Er, wait, sorry. I think I took that a little bit too far, but you get my point which is that poor lineup construction is gateway drug.
5/24/14 – Heart (disorder) of the lineup
I touched on this last week when I grumbled about Raul Ibanez batting clean-up despite the fact that he had barely hit any balls beyond 200 feet in the last two weeks. Well, Scioscia must’ve been reading because Raul got dropped in the lineup this week… all the way to fifth. Baby steps, I guess.
The problem is that Scioscia doubled-down on the stupid by replacing Ibanez in the clean-up spot with David Freese. You know, the other player who has been a wild disappointment at the plate this year. In fact, Freese batted fourth all week long. Why? Probably because he is a “veteran.”
It certainly isn’t because of his bat, especially against right-handed starters. Freese only has a .766 OPS on his career, but against righties, he’s at .742. He just isn’t cut out for that duty. I get that Scioscia doesn’t have a lot of other options right now, granted, but batting someone clean-up based on their service time makes no sense. Perhaps he could be going with Hank Conger, who is raking against righties this year. Or maybe it is time to install Calhoun back at leadoff and slide Kendrick back to fourth. Or just stick Calhoun in the clean-up spot. Really, any of them would be better choices because not only is Freese not the type of slugger you typically expect to see, but he hits a ton of groundballs and that, of course, leads to a lot of doubleplays.
When Josh Hamilton gets healthy, this will all fix itself, and by that I mean that Scioscia will just drop Freese to fifth. Hrmph.
5/29/14 - So much for the closer-by-committee
We were so close! What happened? The closer-by-committee was working so well, but it seems that Scioscia is slowly backing away from it, for no real apparent reason. It started on 5/25 when Scioscia tabbed Frieri to come in for the save in a one-run game, with Alex Gordon, Sal Perez and Lorenzo Cain due up. Why Frieri over Smith?
The big threat in a one-run game is a homer and we all know about Frieri and homers. Granted, the Royals just don’t hit homers, but two of the guys on the team who actually have a chance were due up this inning. Furthermore, two of the batters were right-handed, and Smith is death on righties. This should’ve been Smith, who wasn’t even used in the game.
Then on 5/27, Smith was brought in to face Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin. All of these batters would be hitting left-handed against Smith or Frieri (Mike Zunino, a righty, ended up coming to bat this inning too). While Seager is a power threat, Frieri’s ability to neutralize lefties would’ve been better suited for this part of the lineup. Instead, Smith got the call, seemingly because it was the eighth inning. In Scioscia’s defense, the Seattle lineup is almost exclusively lefties and switch-hitters, so finding a righty-heavy section for Smith to face is not easily done. At least Smith got to face the tougher set of batters.
Frieri came out for the ninth to face a weaker part of the lineup: Brad Miller, James Jones and Michael Saunders. Again, lefty heavy, especially when you factor in that Robinson Cano would be due up if anyone got on base. So, Frieri did ultimately get tabbed to face weaker and lefty-heavy batters, but it put him in a dangerous spot where he had to face the heart of the order after he failed to set the side down 1-2-3. Admittedly, this is a tough call, but I’d lean more towards saving Smith for the inning where Cano might come to the dish.
Finally, the real nail in the coffin came on 5/29. Smith entered the eighth inning to face Mike Zunino, Brad Miller and James Jones, then Nick Franklin because Miller reached base. It is easily the weakest part of the lineup. Smith did his job, leaving Frieri to face Saunders, Smoak and Seager, with Robinson Cano lurking on the bench. That was the plan at least, the Halos put another run on the board, so Scioscia brought in Salas to start the ninth, but it was clear that the plan was originally to have Frieri take on that inning.
So that is now three instances where Scioscia apparently threw away his preference to mix-and-match his two best relievers based on the strength of competition. Scioscia claims that he still wants to do use a situational closer, but his action tell another story.