Over the past couple seasons, I, like many Angels fans, have struggled with my emotions towards Mike Scioscia. As bad as we look right now, it’s hard to hate the coach that brought us our first World Series and seemingly turned the entire Angels organization around. But with each passing season, I question Scioscia’s abilities as a manager more and more. Don’t get me wrong, the guy can clearly manage a baseball team. But, can he manage this baseball team? I’m not so sure.
After the disaster that was the Wells/Napoli trade, Scioscia, for the first time, started receiving true criticism from the media. This led to his everyday decisions being questioned more and more; his rally-killing steal attempts, his excessive bullpen use, his obsession with defense, his general micromanaging of games. As the season wore on, Scioscia eventually admitted to an error in judgment. He recognized that Mathis’ lack of offense was truly hurting us, implying that Mathis’ defense behind the plate simply wasn’t enough to make up for his terrible bat. A glimpse of hope! A sign of better days to come? Not so much. A glimpse is all it was and a glimpse here and there is all we’ll ever get.
As much as I wish it were false, Scioscia seems to be simply incapable of changing. I keep thinking he's going to evolve, but his tiresome managerial techniques remain the same, no matter the roster. He continues to run the bases incessantly, hit and run three times a game, go to the bullpen in the fifth inning, prefer slap hitters over power-hitters, prefer over-the-hill vets over young talent, overvalue the importance of defense, and have love affairs with catchers that can’t hit. I’m exaggerating of course, but not by much.
It has become increasingly apparent that Mike Scioscia is akin to coaches like Mike D’Antoni and June Jones; great in certain conditions, but not so great outside of those conditions. Give D’Antoni a talented point guard and some role players who can shoot three’s and he’ll take you deep into the playoffs. Give June Jones a college football program in the gutter and he’ll get it back on track. Give Mike Scioscia a deep bullpen and a scrappy bunch of defensive-minded, versatile speedsters and he’ll surprise you.
Scioscia refuses to adjust his coaching style to the weapons he has. We have four talented starting pitchers capable of pitching deep into games. The bullpen should be used sparingly. We have seven players capable of hitting 20+ homeruns and 3-4 guys capable of hitting 30+ homeruns. That is an intimidating lineup when used properly. We don’t need to play small ball all the time. We don't need Chris Iannetta to steal second with one out and Bobby Abreu at the plate. We need a different hitter at the plate. And if we simply make sure our most dangerous hitters are in the lineup every night, we’ll be okay. But two of our three most dangerous hitters are being grossly underutilized.
For me, the biggest lineup mistake (and the strongest sign that Scioscia is permanently stuck in his ways) is the manner in which Scioscia has utilized Trumbo and Kendrys. We are all obviously upset about Trumbo’s lack of playing time, but what about Kendrys? Scioscia’s apparent solution to the backlash he received about Trumbo sitting seven of the first twelve games is to bench Kendrys against LHP’s. This move allows Scioscia to get Trumbo in the lineup without having to play him at third, but it sacrifices Kendry's bat in the process. All this because Trumbo is a liability at third base? I'm not buying it. Let's take a closer look at Trumbo's errors at third.
Trumbo’s first error was a bad throw to first that pulled Albert off the bag. Except Pujols actually made the play. It was a bad call by the umpire and should not have been an error.
Trumbo’s second error was a pop-up in foul territory. I don’t know whether he lost the ball in the lights or the wind caught it, but failing to catch a popup has nothing to do with an inability to play third base. That could have happened at any position and it's clearly not something we have to worry about.
The third error was legitimate if my memory serves me right.
So that’s one real error in three starts at third base. For goodness sake, Aybar has four errors already this season. Maicer had one at third last night. I don’t want to hear this garbage about Trumbo being a liability at third because, the fact is, we really don’t know yet. Give the kid a legitimate chance. Let him play there everyday for a week and see how he does.
Also, let’s note that none of Trumbo’s errors have cost the Angels any runs.
There’s no denying that our three most dangerous hitters are Albert, Kendrys, and Trumbo. They should bat 3, 4, 5 and they should do it every night. Not having one of those three guys in the lineup on any given night is entirely inexcusable. We don’t have to worry about Albert being out there, but why has the solution to getting Trumbo more at bats become sitting Kendrys against lefties? There must be answers in the stats.
In 2010, in the two months before “the injury”, Kendrys batted .208 against lefties. Okay, makes sense to sit him Sosh. But wait! What’s this? Kendrys batted .296 against lefties in 2009?!
Maybe Scioscia is just trying to give Kendrys’ leg some rest. Again, I'm not buying it. If Kendrys can’t swing the bat and run to first 3-4 times a day, he shouldn’t be playing at all. DH-ing is not grueling work. The more likely explanation for what is going on is Scioscia is using a two-month statistical sample size as a BS reason to bench Kendrys. Sure, Kendrys has always been a more dangerous left-handed hitter, but the guy is dangerous from both sides. He’s proven that.
If Scioscia was simply trying to put the best possible lineup out there versus lefties, he surely would have noticed Vernon Wells’ .206 avg. against lefties in 2009, or his .195 avg. against lefties in 2010, or his .167 average against lefties so far this year. Wouldn't Vernon be the better choice to sit against lefties? Apparently Vernon's glove in left is just too valuable.
Yes, Vernon hit .284 against lefties last year, but he also hit .187 versus righties last year, which begs the question: Why does Wells play against righties? Once again, none of it makes sense because Scioscia’s up to the same old antics. He's is once again putting way too much value on defense.
What I’ve come to realize is that Scioscia will never give us what we want. He’ll give us a little taste here and there, but never the whole pie. He seems to have gone from playing Trumbo three days a week to playing Trumbo five days a week. But he did it by inexplicably sacrificing precious at bats for our second best hitter. It was enough to slow down the #freeMarkTrumbo movement and silence a few critics in the media. But it's not what we really want. As Scioscia has continuously shown us, little glimpses of hope are no sign of legitimate change to come.
With Scioscia’s never-ending contract, we’re in for several more years of the same old Sosh. All we can do is hope we start winning so our anger seems more trivial. I hope I’m wrong. I hope he makes me look like an idiot for ever doubting him. Better yet, I hope Sosh can find a more sensible balance to his coaching style, but I’m pessimistic.