The Angels skipper reflects on what he's learned in close to 15 full seasons at the helm.
Do you happen to remember the catchy tune "Maria Maria" by Santana and the Product G? Not a bad blast from the past, at least not in my mind. The song was the top dog on Billboard’s Hot 100 the very week Mike Scioscia started his managerial career in April of 2000. Doesn’t quite give you perspective on Scioscia’s tenure? Fair enough…a gallon of gas would have run you about $1.50 based on the national average when the new skipper took the helm (about $0.50 more in California). This past Thursday morning, in the back hallways of the Angels clubhouse, just hours before he won his 1,277th game as a skipper, Mike remembered that 41-year-old rookie manager and compared him to the 55-year-old seated behind his desk today.
“You can’t help but change, I think,” Scioscia said. “It’s easy to say that everything’s the same and that your thought process is the same. I do think the process stays the same, but certainly I think the way information’s gathered has changed. I think the nuts and bolts of this game, as far as I’m concerned, haven’t changed, and haven’t changed in a century as far as the fundamentals and what you need to do. The way players are evaluated keeps evolving daily, and I think to be in tune with that helps you to make some cleaner decisions. So yeah, I would say that there’s been some growth in myself as a manager over that time and I think you’d expect that.”
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Are the Angels a bad bet to bounce back next season?
When the Angels and Reds opened the season, many wondered if the matchup was a World Series preview. The teams possessed the parts necessary for an enticing showdown, including multiple superstars, very visible managers, and talented supporting casts. Most everyone expected the clubs to reach the postseason, and how far they would go from there was anyone's guess. But by the time the Reds clinched a playoff berth on Monday night, the Angels had been eliminated from postseason contention for two days.
These are uncertain times for the Angels. Reported tension between Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto could fuel a dismissal, though who and when remain unclear. A common belief that the Angels are screwed adds to the cheerless state. The club's recent free-agent splurges netted them Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton, and nearly $107 million in 2016 guarantees; the average team is closer to $40 million. They have not drafted higher than 59th since 2011—a consequence of those free-agent signings—and have starved a farm system in need of quality talent. Topping it off is the lackluster production from the trio, as they combined this season for seven Wins Above Replacement Player.
For a while, Ervin Santana was bad, but lately he's been better. Is the successful Santana here to stay?
On July 30, Mike Scioscia told Ervin Santana that, no matter what happened, Santana was not going to pitch more than five innings in that day’s game. Santana had been struggling. Santana had been one of the worst pitchers in baseball. Santana’s ERA was 6.00. So the Angels wanted to reset him with one short outing, an outing in which Santana wouldn’t have to worry about pacing himself and wouldn’t have to hold his mechanics together for quite as long. It’s a trick Scioscia had tried before, most recently with Scott Kazmir, and it’s a trick that you probably don’t hear talked about very often, because Scott Kazmir.
Santana made it through those five innings. They weren’t his best five innings, but he survived them and managed to lower his ERA a tick. Since then, Santana has made seven full starts, and he has arguably been the Angels’ most effective starter in that stretch: a 3.30 ERA, and not a single game score below 50. So, did it work?
Jay is back, and he still hates the teams you root for. Yes, even the Dodgers.
Six weeks ago, when I accepted an offer to start a new blog at Sports Illustrated's website, I was delighted to find that my new employers were willing to allow me to retain some involvement with Baseball Prospectus. Not only did I wish to continue working with this fine staff and its readers in some capacity, but I also really wanted to finish something I'd started—namely, my multi-installment Hate List.
Torii Hunter's suggestion that Mike Scioscia should have had the Angels bunt does not make sense.
After the Angels lost at Tampa Bay last Wednesday, right fielder Torii Hunter suggested that his manager, Mike Scioscia, had not done everything possible to put the team in a position to win. This is the sort of problem that arises when you enter a season with astronomical expectations and then stumble badly out of the gate.
After losing on a walk-off homer by Oakland castoff Brandon Allen the following afternoon and on a walk-off single by Asdrubal Cabrera in Cleveland the next night, the Angels found themselves nine games behind AL West-leading Texas, the largest deficit of any team in baseball. The off-season signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson were supposed to take last year's 86-win team to the proverbial next level. Instead, the Angels have skidded in the opposite direction, leading some folks to panic.
What numbers do we look at when no number is large enough?
In 2011, the Angels began the season with Fernando Rodney as their closer. Oh, man, was Fernando Rodney bad at baseball a year ago. Rodney was the Angels’ closer, and he was also one of the worst relievers in baseball. He converted his first save, and he blew his second save, and he was replaced by Jordan Walden. Jordan Walden made the All-Star team. The Angels didn’t add a closer in the offseason. The Angels didn’t suggest any sort of closer controversy was brewing. The Angels didn't leave the issue of the ninth inning open-ended at all. Jordan Walden spent his winter chopping wood, shoveling snow, and quietly being the Angels’ closer. “What do you do?” people would ask him at parties. “Awwwww,” he would say, trying to be humble, because nobody likes a boaster, “I’m involved in recreation.” Pressed, he would acknowledge that he closed baseball games for the Angels. Women would casually touch his arm.
He saved his first game, and he blew his second game, and he was replaced by Scott Downs. Fernando Rodney is a closer, and Jordan Walden no longer is. That was very fast! One blown save. Four and a third total innings, and nine baserunners. If his season were a start, it would be Clayton Kershaw’s April 15 start. Very, very fast.
Ben reports from the ballpark on Saturday's Yankees-Angels game and explains how and why he stopped worrying about working for a team and learned to love writing about baseball.
Here’s a theory of mine that may or may not be true: you can get almost anywhere in a ballpark as long as you’re wearing a lanyard. If you want journalistic access to a team, you could work hard for years, turning in clean copy on time and impressing your superiors until somebody sponsors you for season credentials or the BBWAA. Or you could skip all that, put on a good-looking lanyard, and try to look like you know where you’re going. Most people assume that anyone wearing one inside a stadium is supposed to be there.
I have my credentials, so I don’t have to fly casual and fake my way in. But I’m on my way to do something I’ve never done before, so I’m displaying my lanyard prominently and willing guards to look at it and let me pass. It’s Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, I’m standing outside Yankee Stadium, and I’m about to attend my first game as a member of the BBWAA.
Was Mike Piazza one of the best defensive catchers ever? How does catcher defense age? What effect do managers have on their pitching staffs, and do former catchers really make the best skippers? And how good was Leo Mazzone, really?
The best pitcher handlers since 1948
As I promised a couple of weeks ago, I’m going to take a look at the catchers who were best at handling their pitching staffs going back to 1948, the first year for which sufficient Retrosheet data is available.
I won’t describe my methods again here, since you can look at my previous article if you need a refresher. Suffice it to say that a With-Or-Without-You approach has been used here, and that the effect of the pitcher, batter, ballpark, and defense has been removed in order to evaluate that of the catcher.