Mike Scioscia has been the best manager the Angels have ever had. He has led the team to its only World Series title and currently has over 1,000 managerial wins – all as an Angel. But like players managers too can have off years. Enter 2011 for Mike Scioscia. The Halos skipper has made an atypical amount of head scratching decisions that likely have seriously contributed to their current outside looking in status in the playoff race.
Lets take a look at a list of Scioscia’s blunders during the 2011 campaign.
- 1. The Trade Of Mike Napoli – While we’ll never know for sure – its rather safe to surmise that Scioscia was fully on board (or even played a hand) in dealing Mike Napoli. While no one could have known that Napoli would in turn be flipped to Texas – Scioscia’s unwillingness to play Napoli at catcher on a regular basis led Reagins and company to buy into the thought process that Napoli was expendable and the club therefore vastly underestimated his value on the trade market. The results have been disastrous.
- 2. Jeff Mathis Getting The Majority Of Catcher At Bats - As a result of Napoli being shipped out and Hank Conger (in Scioscia’s mind) not being ready to assume an everyday catchers role – Mike Scioscia has sent Jeff Mathis to the plate 239 times (more than any other Angels catcher). You don’t need me to tell you that most of those plate appearances have resulted in outs as Mathis is currently sporting a .180/.232/.268 slash line. In Scioscia’s mind Mathis is a “premium” defensive catcher and signal caller – yet there is no defensive metric (the riddiculous CERA) included that warrant Mathis playing more than Hank Conger.
- 3. Bobby Abreu Batting Third – Bobby Abreu has shown consistently throughout 2011 that he has regressed significantly due to age. His SLG, OBP, AVG, OPS, HR, and RBI are all well below his career averages. Abreu is currently hitting .253/.353/.360 with just 7 home runs and 55 RBI’s. Despite that lack of production Abreu has hit third in the Angels batting order in a team leading 93 games! With the Angels season on the line tonight in Toronto – guess who is their number three hitter? Winner if you guessed Abreu. A night after going o for 5 with 4 strikeouts Bobby Abreu is inexplicably back in the number three spot.
- 4. Using Fernando Rodney In High Leverage Situations – While Scioscia should be acclaimed for stripping Rodney of the Closers role during the first week of the season his continued use of Rodney in high leverage situations (game on the line) is down right deplorable. During a five day stretch in August Rodney was directly responsible for a blown save and two losses. Sure players are tasked with performing under pressure, but mangers and coaches are tasked with putting players in their best position to succeed. Scioscia has continually failed to do that with Rodney this season. In a tight – late inning game conventional wisdom says the last thing you want a pitcher to do is give up walks. A free pass sets the other team up to sacrifice the winning or tying run into scoring position. So why on earth would Scioscia ever let a dude sporting a healthy 7.88 BB/9 anywhere near the mound in these situations? Your guess is as good as mine.
- 5. Constant Lineup Juggling – Abreu hitting third is just one issue with the Angels lineup this season. To date Scioscia has used over 120 different lineup combinations and quite frankly most of those combinations have been flawed. Baseball players are notoriously creatures of habit and while its nice to see Scioscia try to wake up a season long slumber on offense. Part of the problem may have been due to the constant lineup juggling and the un-defined role setting as a result. Howie Kendrick - the teams best hitter has hit in the number three spot (usually reserved for a teams best hitter) in just 20 games. Meanwhile Mark Trumbo – the teams best power threat (.544 SLG. w/ RISP) has hit in the cleanup spot for a grand total of three at bats. The fact that Alberto Callaspo (16 at bats, .371 SLG), and Bobby Abreu ( 42 at bats, .360 SLG) have spent more time in the number four spot than Mark Trumbo is a sad reality of 2011.
Look – no one is perfect and as stated in the intro Mike Scioscia is a great manager. He has likely forgotten more about the game of baseball than I’ll ever know – but these five season long mishaps should be added to the slumping veterans on offense as reasons why the 2011 Angels struggled to reach the post season.