Angels manager Mike Scioscia rethinks the use of his closer in tight games
Last Friday night, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was prepared to do something he almost never does. He planned to use his best reliever, Cam Bedrosian, to begin the eighth inning of a game his team led, because the opposition’s best hitters were due to bat next.
Though the game’s circumstances changed and he did not act, he later acknowledged that the thought was there.
Then, on Saturday night, Scioscia formulated another unusual decision, this time acting on it. He asked Bedrosian to get five outs in a one-run game in order to secure an Angels victory.
Viewed together, the moves mark a different approach to bullpen management than what Scioscia outlined during the offseason.
Since Huston Street was acquired in 2014, the Angels’ closer has been used almost exclusively when the club was leading in the ninth inning. Street also pitched at times in games where the score was tied in the eighth inning or when the Angels trailed by a run or two.
But Street was never used in the situation that Scioscia was contemplating using Bedrosian on Friday, when the Angels led the visiting Seattle Mariners by three runs headed into the bottom of the seventh inning.
As it turned out, Kole Calhoun homered to stretch the Angels’ lead to 5-1 and Scioscia went with Andrew Bailey to pitch the top of the eighth.
Asked about his decision, Scioscia at first said he did not plan to use Bedrosian for all six remaining outs — which Street was never asked to do as an Angel, either. But then Scioscia acknowledged that he might have done exactly that, depending on the circumstance.
“Well, I think we’d see where he was, and how much he might have had,” Scioscia said. “But we definitely wanted to match up in the middle with Cam, until the game got to be 5-1.”
Scioscia has faced questions about bullpen management all spring, especially after Street succumbed to injuries and Bailey struggled during Cactus League games.
“If you’re asking what our bullpen structure is, it’s still evolving,” Scioscia said last month.
The first week of the season showed that to be true.
Shift in shifting?
Here’s another trend to monitor:
In the season’s first week, the Angels used a standard defensive alignment less often than any other major league team, according to data compiled by Fangraphs.com.
In 164 plate appearances by opposing hitters, the Angels utilized some type of defensive shift 89 times.
Scioscia said his team is using the same decision-making process based on the same data as last season, when the Angels ranked sixth in shifts.
“It continues to be refined,” he said, “but it’s the same process.”
Asked about the number of shifts in the first week, Scioscia said it did not indicate a major shift in philosophy.
“Those reports are sensitive to who’s pitching for us and the team we’re playing,” Scioscia said. “I think that’s going to be just the luck of the draw. Some guys are going to show more shifts against certain pitchers than others. Sometimes our data has us in different spots with the same hitter with different pitchers, which you would expect.”
The Angels begin a three-game series against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. The series includes one of only two weekday day games scheduled to take place at Angel Stadium this season, on Thursday at 12:30 p.m., a pitching matchup between Yu Darvish and Ricky Nolasco. … The Rangers also were idle Monday. They are 2-4 after being swept by the Cleveland Indians in a season-opening three-game series.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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