Welcome to Second Guessing Scioscia, our look back at some of the questionable decisions that Mike Scioscia made in the last week. And, boy, there are some questionable decisions to be reviewed. In the history of this column, we have never once struggled for content. However, we aren’t anti-Scioscia. The official MWAH stance on Scioscia is pro-Scioscia overall. But his in-game tactics need some help and we are here to provide that help by nitpicking incessantly and grading them with our patented SciosciaFace grading system.
In this week’s edition, we take a look inside the big lineup shake-up that Scioscia had tried to avoid. I know I said I’d try and leave the lineup tinkering alone, but it just can’t be helped because Scioscia won’t leave the lineup alone.
Batting Trout third and Pujols fourth
Before I even get into this, let’s just put out the normal caveat that lineup construction is something that is heavily scrutinized but doesn’t actually have that big of an impact in the long run. Minor alterations like the one Scioscia made this week, which was to bump Kole Calhoun up into the two-hole with Mike Trout sliding down to third and Albert Pujols down to fourth, will likely hurt the Angels, but we are talking about a scale of maybe one win over the course of the season.
The reason that this move is drawing a bit of ire around the interwebs is quite simply that it means less Mike Trout. Oh, and less Albert Pujols, but that’s a secondary concern. Scioscia ostensibly moved Trout and Albert down a spot each in hopes of giving them more RBI opportunities. What Scioscia failed to recognize is that in so doing he reduced their overall number of opportunities to even hit this year. Over the course of a full season, Trout and Albert would be getting 20 to 30 fewer plate appearances.
Let me repeat that point for emphasis. LESS MIKE TROUT. HOLY FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER, WHY WOULD WANT LESS MIKE TROUT?!?!!
When put that way, it seems pretty silly, no?
In Scioscia’s defense, he is trying to serve a noble cause. Getting more people on base for Trout and Pujols to drive in would be nice. What Scioscia is failing to discern is the difference between quality and quantity. Having more batters in front of Trout and Pujols isn’t the solution here. It is only the first inning where this means more batters get a chance to be on base for Trout, many of those opportunities will be canceled out though by 20 to 30 plate appearances he will lose by batting lower in the order.
What Scioscia should be looking at is who is batting in front of Trout. I know I’ve harped on this before, but Erick Aybar is a terrible, awful, no good choice for the leadoff role. Aybar has not posted an OBP over .324 since his first full season as a starter and is seeing a shockingly small number of pitcher per plate appearance (3.32), even by his standards.
That’s where Scioscia should be doing his tinkering. He actually might’ve even inadvertently stumbled across the solution when he gave Aybar the day off yesterday by putting Johnny Giavotella in the leadoff spot. Johnny G is sitting on a .328 OBP right now, has good speed, makes a lot of contact and sees a more palatable 3.48 pitches per plate appearance. This is, again, an imperfect fit, but it might be the best choice, even over Kole Calhoun who just so happens to have a career .328 OBP.
At a certain point, Scioscia might just have to step back and realize that there is no amount of lineup tinkering that is going to suddenly unlock the offensive potential of this lineup. Matt Joyce isn’t going to magically remember how to hit if you bat him ninth in the order instead of sixth.
The only lineup change that Scioscia should be pushing for is to have new names to put on the lineup card. That isn’t really under his control though, so I guess he’s just going to keep on tinkering for the sake of tinkering.