Is Mike Scioscia Crazy To Stick With Torii Hunter, Fernando Rodney?
If the definition of insanity is to repeat the same action and expect different results, what can we say about Mike Scioscia's actions of late?
There are two glaring issues plaguing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the moment: the bullpen, and production from the middle of the order. And while their skipper has at times acknowledged a need for some change, very little has actually come from it.
Take a look at some of the recent actions Scioscia has taken, or not.
On Sunday, Angels set-up man Fernando Rodney was allowed to face only one batter in the eighth inning against Texas. He immediately gave up an RBI hit and was yanked from the game so fast, his hat almost spun straight.
Scott Downs relieved Rodney that night, and was used again as the eighth-inning specialist on Monday in Oakland.
Rodney's removal was a long time coming. He's given up 13 walks and 16 hits in just 17.1 innings pitched this season. That's 29 base-runners, almost two per inning pitched. Hardly the right stuff for a late-game reliever meant to hold leads.
But Rodney's removal from the set-up role has not changed his impact on games. Scioscia still allowed him to literally throw the game away in a key spot against the A's.
In a tie game in the 10th, Rodney walked two batters, allowed them to advance on a wild pitch, and eventually gave up the game-winning run on a bases-loaded infield ground ball.
Where should Hunter bat in the order?
Apparently, Scioscia recognizes Rodney's failure to hold leads in the eighth inning, but still feels he's useful when the game is really in jeopardy.
He takes the same approach with his offense.
The Angels rank second in the AL in batting average, with four starters hitting .310 or better. But despite that modicum of success, the team still ranks ninth in the league in both runs scored and RBI.
Part of this can be attributed to the continued absence of Kendrys Morales. The Angels have yet to find a suitable replacement for their slugging first baseman, and youngsters like Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos are still learning the trade.
In the meantime, Scioscia has relied on aging veterans to pick up the slack with little success.
Torii Hunter, in particular, has been a shocking disappointment in 2011. His 36 strikeouts and .230 average are a drastic departure from his All-Star season just a year ago. Hunter is also perhaps the greatest rally killer on the Angels right now, grounding into double plays at a Vladimir Guerrero rate.
It's not hard to see why. Even the most competitive ballplayers reach a point where they start to fade. You would be hard-pressed to find a guy who wants it more than Hunter, but at 35, he may have reached that point.
However, that hasn't stopped Scioscia from continuing to plug him in as the cleanup hitter. Night after night, Hunter leaves men on base, strands runners in scoring position, and ends rallies with infield grounders.
Yet, night after night, his name is listed in the key run-producing slot in the order.
Does Scioscia think these guys will somehow turn it around in one night? Does he think this time, they'll get the job done? That by shoving them out there, the law of averages will takeover and Hunter and Rodney will eventually run into a good game?
Scioscia is, without question, a terrific baseball mind. In three years, he took a perennial loser and made it into a World Series champion. In 10 years, he's turned the Angels into a winning organization and a consistent force to be reckoned with.
And that is perhaps the most maddening trait the Angels have shown this year. They are full of talent and wisdom, full of experience that screams for changes to be made. Why it isn't is anyone's guess.
The Angels are in the middle of a rainstorm right now. The power is out and Scioscia keeps hitting that remote, thinking maybe this time the TV will flick on.
A full-scale lobotomy might be going a bit too far, but some friendly group therapy never hurt anyone.
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