For many who follow Sabermetrics, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was the villain in the power struggle he won over general manager Jerry Dipoto last year.
Dipoto was hailed for acknowledging the value of advanced analysis. Scioscia alleged refused to even let much of the analysis get to his players and assistant coaches.
At the time, much of the dispute was told under the guise of “anonymous sources” in lightly authenticated reports. You will be spared the details except to say Dipoto resigned before he could be fired.
Dipoto, now the Seattle Mariners, gave credence to the story recently, telling MLB Radio “”I have a manager now in Scott Servais who I do see eye-to-eye with. And we have discussed every move. We have disagreed on many moves this offseason but in a really productive way. Fair or unfair, that was not always the case with Mike. You know, Scott, we talk about it, we cut it up on the floor, we’ll introduce it to coaches and scouts and at the end of the day I think that’s healthy. Healthy disagreement is a good thing, and sometimes in Anaheim, as you saw played out nationally at times in the last four years it wasn’t quite as healthy.”
Saturday night against the Indians, Scioscia showed he remains firm in his ways and that they can still lead to wins.
It has not been a good season for Scioscia. His Angels entered the game 26-35, 11 games behind in the American League West.
Saturday, though, his ways prevailed.
With inexperienced catcher Jett Bandy behind the plate, the manager, a former catcher with the Dodgers, spent most of the night calling pitches from the dugout. It worked out well.
Matt Shoemaker, trying to revive his career, allowed only three hits and no runs in eight innings.
Most of the night the Angels seemed to be playing small-ball, the bane of many Sabermatricians. They scored a run on a double by Jefry Marte in the fourth inning and two more in the seventh when some Indians flubs, notably by Mike Napoli at first base, loaded the bases. Kole Calhoun’s lazy popup behind third base found Jose Ramirez out of position on a shift and third baseman Juan Uribe just too slow get back in time.
It was far from the on-base-plus-power offense in vogue these days, but it challenged the Indians, even with a strong performance by starter Trevor Bauer.
Of course, many traditionalists would expect a starting pitcher making an excellent performance to try for the complete game. Instead, Scioscia yanked Shoemaker and brought in closer Houston Street.
While Shoemaker allowed only three hits and one walk in eight innings, Street coughed up four hits and a walk and never got the third out. Carlos Santana almost tied it with a run scoring double that banged off the right field wall. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a sacrifice fly and Tyler Naquin drove a pinch-hit single to right to tie it. Street was gone when Yan Gomes popped up the first pitch he saw from Fernando Salas.
Fans in Anaheim could be heard complaining that the rally was delaying the fireworks. At least one fan in Ohio was concerned about sleep depravation as the game headed to the bottom of the ninth inning.
It was small-ball time again. Brendan Ryan got his first hit of the year. Jett Bandy accomplished the Angels’ 22nd sacrifice bunt of the season so career minor-leaguer Gregorio Petit could have a chance to knock in the winning run. Bryan Shaw decided it was time for Petit to be given his second walk of the season.
That left it up to Yunel Escobar, who leaned over the plate, broke his bat and won the game with a bloop over second base.
Small-ball proved victorious.