Mike Scioscia is quietly working to dispel all the accusations and line of thinking that has painted him as a "dinosaur" in the MLB in regards to using advanced stats and analytics...at least, that's what it seems like in this young Spring Training season. He'd already divulged a bit to beat writers last week on the matter, saying that they've "incorporated everything" in past seasons and that he is indeed up to speed on the more modern ways of seeing the game. This came on the heels of Jerry Dipoto publicly stating that he felt his tenure with the Angels was marred a bit by the apparent hesitance Scioscia and his coaching staff had to distribute the data to the players on the field. It's a lot of he said/he said and we then draw our own biased conclusions, but the gist was that Scioscia likes the info, got the info, and will continue to use the analytics department put together by Billy Eppler to inform his everyday decisions.
This could all be some sort of damage control still being doled out due to the very public Scioscia/Dipoto feud, and an effort to squash all the preseason analysis of the Angels' manager as someone who is still stuck in an antiquated mindset. Or maybe Mike is just doing whatever he can to legitimately set things straight and fight for his reputation; either way, he's back talking analytics and advanced stats today, this time with Fangraphs' David Laurila.
"The last three or four years, certainly, spray-chart analytics have come into play as far as shifting. Those have been really advantageous for all of baseball. There are some things that are happening in projecting pitching performance — not only start to start, but within a game. That’s very exciting. Billy Eppler, our general manager, has a lot of things that I think are going to help us with that equation of when a pitcher has crossed that line of being effective. Your lineup, your batting order decisions. Those as well."
"I think spin rate serves a purpose. If we can get spin rates analyzed during a game, that’s going to help us within the scope of, ‘What’s a pitcher’s performance?’ Spin rate is more of a diagnostic tool as to maybe why a curveball isn’t as sharp. OK, the spin rate is down; is it the grip? So it’s applicable in a game, but the broader application is as a diagnostic tool.
Mike makes a few other points in the brief interview, but the main gist is that he is quite aware of advanced statistics and uses them. That's great to hear, honestly, but it doesn't exactly let him off the hook. For one, you'd think it would have more effect on lineup creation; a look at a handful of statistical analysis pieces online will quickly convince any smart baseball person that you'd want to put Mike Trout higher in the lineup...Mike Scioscia never really sees it this way. You'd think it'd lead to more shifting, but that's not the case with Mike. And you'd probably think of a few other cases where the actual in-game applications of these fancy stats would be put to use, but are summarily set to the side by Scioscia.
That's the rub here. It's really nice to see Mike talking shop with Fangraphs and other reporters about his awareness and acceptance of WAR, spray charts, exit velocity, spin rate, etc. It's great that he's focused this Spring on changing that grating perception of Scioscia as Anti-Analytics Manager Supreme. But actions speak louder than words, and unless he's going to manage games using this data given to him, meaning actually make adjustments in-game, as well as get into the 21st century regarding stuff like optimal Trout batting order and poor usage of situational bunting, then it's all just hot air.
If there is reason for hope, and deep down inside of me I believe there is, it's in this quote:
Early on here with Buddy Black, Joe Maddon, Ron Roenicke, we would use whatever data we could. Moving forward, with some of the really interesting things that are on the board — they can’t help but help you, and we will apply them.
Why? Because Ron Roenicke is back, and so is Bud Black. Are they, alongside Billy Eppler, the Scioscia whisperers the club needs, that can get him to openly and publicly commit to a more well-rounded and strategic approach to the game? I like to think so, probably because it's Spring and optimism is cool. Mike is trying, and I'm going to give him a another chance to prove it in 2016.