I thought we could all use a break from this Shea Hillenbrand firestorm and appreciate what we have.
While admittedly a stathead, Chris Jaffe of Baseball Think Factory has written quite an article rating baseball managers. I'm not mathy enough to really understand the methodology, but the top ten of managers from 2001-present looks like this, with the number being the number of victories added by the manger:
- Lou Piniella +49
- Ozzie Guillen +31
- Ron Gardenhire +30
- Mike Scioscia +30
- Bobby Cox +25
- Dusty Baker +23
- Jack McKeon +16
- Art Howe +16
- Phil Garner +15
- Jim Tracy +14
...the Angels have had the same basic hitting approach under Scioscia: don't worry about homers and walks, just make contact and put the ball in play. In the last six years they've never been higher than 10th in homers. Meanwhile, they've been the hardest team in the AL to strike out three times, and constantly among the best in offensive K's. They're always in the bottom five in walks taken. Batting average is the centerpiece of their offense. Their rank in hits has been higher than their rank in runs 6 times in his 7 years. While consistent, it is by no means brilliant.This makes sense. If you're a team deploying a relatively weak offense while favoring batting average (like the Halos), you're going to want your players to engage in small ball: hack away at pitches and wait till one of them is able to get a hit. Then, once they do, you want to be aggressive on the basepaths and make you get the most of that baserunner (by stealing that extra base or two) because there's no telling when your free-swinging players may get another hit to bring 'em home.
On the other hand, if you're a team like the Red Sox that emphasizes OBP, you're going to want to encourage your players to be more patient and get on base in any way they can (be it hits or walks). Once they're on the bags, they should act conservatively. The fact that they're not getting caught attempting to steal bases means that they won't create unnecessary outs. This will allow more hitters to get on base and increase the number of runs scored when your power hitters (Ortiz and Ramirez) jack one out of the park.Another feature of the article that I thought was impressive was the fact that despite not following the Angels, Jaffe nailed the Angels' style of play on the head using statistics:
Their hitting serves to keep them in the game. I can't prove it, but my guess would be Scioscia's brand of contact hitting offense would also be one of the more consistent offensive strategies on a day-in, day-out basis. You're certainly not going to be as likely to blow people out, and if you can keep making contact you will get some balls to drop every game. It's the Chinese water torture method of hitting. Instead of the non-stop drip-drip-drip from the faucet, you get an onslaught of crack-crack-crack off the bats as they relentlessly try to make something happen...
Scioscia's Angels are designed to be tied 3-3 after seven innings of every game. Then he brings in that dynamite bullpen and shuts down the opposition while his hitters continue their Chinese batting torture. It ain't a complex strategy, but it works. Scioscia needs to make sure he keeps everyone playing hard, keeping their motivation, and handling his bullpen effectively. He's done a brilliant job of that. No wonder they have the rally monkey - this is a team designed to win late.
Read the entire article here (and, of course, be sure to take a look at the Scioscia section):