What was I saying about demonizing mansgers for pitching decisions?Well, no sooner do I say that and then flip-flop and criticize Mike Scioscia. So here goes...
The Angels were swept from the postseason today by the Red Sox with a two-run, tenth-inning home run by David Ortiz. That came after an almost inconceivable five-run comeback in the seventh capped by a Valdimir Guerrero's game-tying grand slam.
Just prior to Ortiz's home run, Angel manager Mike Scioscia replaced Francisco Rodriguez with Jarrod Washburn, a left-handed starter who pitched game one, to pitch to the left-handed Ortiz. Of course, what happens on Washburn's first pitch? It gets launched over the Green Monster.
Now Scioscia is being second guessed for pulling Rodriguez in favor of Washburn. I think there was a bad decision, but there were two decisions made and only one was bad.
Rodriguez had thrown 38 pitches in 2-2/3 innings. That's a lot for a setup guy. Besides, there was a lefty coming up and everyone knows that a right-hander should under no circumstances pitch to a lefty with the game on the line (to paraphrase Vizzini in "The Princess Bride"). Of course, I'm being facetious. Let's compare their numbers vs. lefties:
Well, K-Rod's is better, but they are both pretty good. Let's take a look at Ortiz's splits. Keep in mind that until he came to Boston, the Twins were reluctant to use him against lefties:
Ortiz vs. LHP: .250/.315/.469/.784
Ortiz vs. RHP: .326/.411/.671/1.082
Well, that looks like a no-brainer. But wait, Washburn just faced Ortiz the other day (game one)—who won their contests then? In game one, he singled on the first pitched offered in the first scoring the first run and he walked in the fourth on four pitches and later scored. He also grounded out to end the fourth but Washburn had already been pulled. That was two plate appearances both of which resulted in runs being scored, which doesn't seem all that encouraging.
So what would I do? The Angels have had one of the best bullpens of all time over the last four or so—believe me, I've studied it—, and the anchor of that has been Troy Percival, the closer. Percival had pretty good numbers against lefties this year (.218/.331/.396/.727), he wasn't tired (his last game was six days ago), and he didn’t get rocked in game one. Washburn was pretty horrific that day giving up seven runs but just three earned in three innings on five hits and three walks. And truth be told, Washburn hasn't been that great a pitcher since the Angels won the Series in 2002 (4.34 ERA in 2003 and 4.64 this year).
It is inexcusable that Scioscia did not use his ace reliever for what boiled down to their biggest game of the year. And on top of it, he turned to a pitcher who had been ineffective just three days before to the same team and was pitching in an atypical role.
But he was a lefty facing a lefty, so all was right with the world.
Maybe he was thinking that he would be skewered if he brought in a righty to replace a righty and lost the game. Maybe he though Washburn would redeem himself. I don't know. I can't and won't psychoanalyze him. All I know is that he lost in three games without using his closer. I'm not even sure if he even warmed up. And he was on his playoff deathbed and made a bad decision.
However, that decision was not pulling Rodriguez. It was sending in Washburn. Everyone will be coupling the two, but they are separate decisions. Unlike the Grady Little trend of late, he did not stick with a pitcher too long. Rodriguez was pitching relatively well and may have been able to go one more batter (I'll trust Scioscia's judgment here). However, the pitcher that goes in afterwards had better be your best available pitcher. That was Troy Percival, but Scioscia chose Washburn. It was a bad decision and Washburn ended up Donnie Moore-ing the game.
Anyway, Scioscia will be vilified but not for the wrong decision. He be blamed for the right one, and that's a shame because now the next manager will be pressured into keeping his middle reliever in the game too long. They're will be both the Grady Little and the Mike Scioscia affects which will result in more jittery managers and even wackier decisions