Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I stand before you today to put Mike Scioscia on trial for his role in the murder of the 2013 Angels season. If found guilty, we ask that you sentence him to termination at the end of the playing season.
It is the contention of the prosecution that Mike Scioscia's gross mishandling of the roster, inability to manage the clubhouse chemistry and out antiquated in-game tactics have done irreparable damage to the franchise and were chiefly responsible for the team's repeated disappointment over the last several seasons. Allow me to present you the evidence against Mr. Scioscia.
Exhibit A - Four straight seasons without a playoff berth
Don't worry, I'm not going to continue the lawyer gimmick. That would be way too annoying and cloud the arguments. Anyway, the first thing Scioscia gets hit with is always the four seasons without going to the playoffs. That makes sense on the surface, but we have to ask ourselves, "Should the Angels have made the playoffs each of those years?"
With the kind of payroll the Angels have carried since 2010, you'd expect the team to be good but you can ask the Mets how true that correlation really is. What is more relevant is the expectations for the roster. Take for example that 2010 team. It "disappointingly" won just 80 games therefore Scioscia must've screwed it up, right? Well, maybe not. That team won 80 games, but PECOTA had them pegged to win just 76 and their Pythagorean win expectancy was 79. And this came in a year where they lost their best hitter, Kendrys Morales, in May to a broken ankle. So, yes, they missed the playoffs but you could make a strong argument that Scioscia actually got the team to overachieve.
The same goes for 2011. Even amongst fans, there was not much in the way of expectations as many fans and analysts alike had them penciled in for 85 wins. PECOTA projected a measly 75 wins and the Halos finished with a Pythagorean record of 85-77. That team won 86, so again, not a disappointment even though there was no playoffs involved.
That overachieving trend starts wear off in 2012 where PECOTA predicted 91 wins for the Angels and they won 89 with a Pythagorean 88 win expectancy. So, yes, they fell short, not wildly so, but they fell short. That first month of the season where everything went wrong completely killed them, but could we not argue that Scioscia did a great job of managing after that and leading the team to the best record in baseball from mid-May on?
We won't even get into this season as there is no arguing what a gigantic failure the season has been. Even accounting for injuries and bad breaks, there is really no defense for this disaster. That doesn't make it a fireable offense.
Scioscia has a long history of helming teams that beat expectations. In fact, he is one of the best ever at doing so. If you really want to lord the playoff drought over Scioscia, go ahead, but know that really the last two seasons are the only ones that should be considered actual failures and that pretty much all of his other 14 seasons of managing the Halos were big successes. Baseball is a "what have you done for me lately" business, but that doesn't mean completely overlooking what was done in the past.
Exhibit B - Poor bullpen management
In a weird way, bullpen management is both a point against Scioscia and a point in his favor. One of the biggest factors in Scioscia's early success was considered to be his adept bullpen management. Those Angel teams had very strong bullpens and Scioscia was thought to have employed them in a way that maximized their potential.
However, during the four-year playoff drought, a strong argument could be made that Scioscia has lost his bullpen mojo. In fact, I did just that last week. Really, his technique has eroded quite a bit. He's been guilty of managing to the inning, waiting too long to go to the bullpen and relying too heavily on playing the platoon advantage.
What isn't entirely clear is how much talent comes into play. Was Scioscia really that good at deploying his bullpen in the early years or is it impossible for any manager to screw up a bullpen that had Troy Percival, Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields? Conversely, what manager could coax any level of effectiveness out of this year's bullpen full of flotsam and jetsam?