The Myth of Scioscia’s Style

Once in a while, somebody will comment to me or on that Mike Scioscia’s style of play (“small ball,” hit and run, speed, sacrificing, etc.) doesn’t suit the current Angels roster of power hitters, like Pujols, Hamilton, and Trumbo. That assessment would then usually be a platform for firing Scioscia because he doesn’t know what to do with a power hitting line-up. Here’s what I wrote a few days ago on my Facebook:

“I would argue that it’s not one style that wins, but the execution of the players that matters the most. In 2002, Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, and Tim Salmon had slugging percentages of .453, .539, and .503, respectively. In 2013, only one player slugged over .500 (Trout!). Of the current regular starters, Trumbo was 2nd in slugging percentage at .453. So arguably, the 2002 team had more power than 2013. It’s not that Pujols, Hamilton, and to some extent Trumbo doesn’t “fit” Scioscia’s “style” of small ball. They’re just not hitting well in general. To make the point further, the 2002 team was superior because it got on-base more (.341 OBP) and scored more runs (851). By the way, those stats are almost identical to the 2013 Red Sox with .349 OBP and 853 runs, both league highs. The 2013 Angels had .329 OBP and scored only 733 runs. It’s hard to play small ball (steal and sacrifices) if batters aren’t getting on base.”

On top of that, Scioscia’s small ball in 2002 was lauded only because his players executed hitting very well. In other words, we overvalued his strategy. It wasn’t really Scioscia’s small ball strategy that helped with the Game 6 World Series comeback in 2002. It was the home run of Scott Spezio that got the team back into the game, the leadoff home run of Darin Erstad that got them closer, and the double of power hitter Troy Glaus to score the subsequent tying and go-ahead runs. All in all, it goes to the general sabermetric belief that managers don’t manage the game as much as they manage men.