When aggressive baserunning goes wrong: The Gary DiSarcina story

We all know far too well that the Angels are painfully inept at hitting with runners in scoring position. The Red LOBsters have plagued this lineup since Day One, yet the Angels remain one of the better offenses in the American League. One of the ways they’ve been able to mitigate their RISP woes is by being an excellent baserunning team. This incarnation of the Halos has been able to recapture some of that vintage Scioscia “aggressive baserunning” magic that fueled the 2002 championship run.

At 1.0, the Halos boast the fifth best runs above replacement on the basepaths in the American League. That is a good number, but it could be better. How do I know this?

Because I’ve watched Gary DiSarcina coach third base.

DiSar is new to coaching third for the Angels this year and it is pretty obvious that he’s still learning the ropes. Here is how the Angels have performed in terms of taking extra bases this year:

As you can see, the Angels take a lot of extra bases. They lead the league in extra bases taken percentage. The problem though is that they also lead the league in outs on the bases and, in particular, making outs at third and home combined. There is a certain common denominator there.

All those outs aren’t DiSarcina’s fault, but some of them certainly are. Look no further than the misadventures of the Angels trying to run on Yoenis Cespedes in recent weeks. Cespedes made some stellar throws, to be sure, but when it happens that many times it falls under the “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” category. For DiSar, it actually extends to “fool me three times, you’re a shitty base coach.”

What’s I find particularly interesting about this situation is the nature of base coaches, in general. By that I mean, are base coaches actually hired for their base coaching prowess? That is an answer that probably shifts from team to team and situation to situation.

From an outsider’s perspective, it doesn’t appear that the Angels pick third base coaches because they are good at that particular job. DiSarcina definitely isn’t good at it, but he was seemingly picked for the gig because the Angels simply wanted him to be on the coaching staff somewhere. DiSar has been considered an up-and-coming coach or executive type for years, having previously worked for the Angels and Red Sox in various capacities. The Halos wanted to be in business with DiSarcina and the vacancy at third base coach was a convenient opening at the time.

That isn’t a slam on the Angels front office either. Coaching the bases is probably a small part of what DiSarcina does. There is a reason that Scioscia’s previous third base coaches have gone on to become Scioscia’s bench coach. Coaching third base is just something they do during games, nothing more.

At the same time, this seems like it should be an easy thing to fix. Ideally, DiSarcina will simply learn on the job and be a bit more judicious about giving the “go” sign and a bit more authoritative in flashing the “stop” sign that Albert Pujols loves to hobble run through. At a minimum, Scioscia can intervene and give a general mandate to play things more conservatively on the bases, as much as that might pain him to do so. At worst, DiSarcina can be “re-assigned” to some other position in the front office where he can’t do any on-field damage.

Until then, the Angels risk DiSarcina becoming the latest and greatest target of the fans’ venom. If there is one thing Angels fans are good at, it is developing an irrational (and under-informed) loathing for the lesser members of Scioscia’s coaching staff. Just look at the way fans treat pitching coach Mike Butcher. Most fans treat him like he is actively working to undermine the pitching staff even though fans have no way of actually knowing what he is or isn’t doing with a given pitcher. But fans can actually see a vast majority of what DiSarcina is doing as the third base coach. The rage will only be so much more voluminous when it can be fueled by real, tangible evidence of his incompetence.

To avoid that cruel fate, I’d suggest that DiSarcina follow his own advice that he gave when he was first hired back in November.

“My goal right now is to be the best third base coach in baseball — that’s where my focus is going to be,” said DiSarcina, who replaces third base coach Dino Ebel, who was promoted to bench coach in October. “I know the speed of the game. I know the outfield arms are better, and the catchers make better plays. My job is to make adjustments, to do my homework.”

Time to start doing that homework and making those adjustments, Gary.

Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the founder and 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.