Saturday, October 08, 2005
Stephen Smith, Your Table Is Ready: Management By Baseball On Angels Strategy
... [T]he Yankees follow informed baseball wisdom, while the Angels violate it, at least on the offense side.Via BTF.
The truth is not well known. Perhaps I should say I didn't know it before I was given a generous chunk of time with their skipper, Mike Scioscia. Scioscia, in case you doubted it, has little love for sabermetrics types. He's very courteous about it, but he's equally opinionated. It's not that the Angels reject the numbers -- far from it. They use numbers few others do, to their competitive advantage.
...Scioscia, as it turns out, loves on-base percentage. It's just that he doesn't have it on his roster. The Angels don't reject on-base average as something valuable. They just don't have an abundance of it, and therefore try to distill and preserve every iota of value out of the amount they do have of it. The theory being that if you can get a runner on first in any manner, get the runner into scoring position in any manner, optimal or not. Get runners moving with run-and-hit, steal bases, shake up the defense.
...The numbers the Angel management are passionate about, and which may be the factor that provides them an affordance for success in lieu of on-base, are batting w/runners in scoring position (RISP) and batting with runners in scoring position with 2 out (RISP2). In these, they excel, compared to the American League and compared to the Yankees. And they especially excel against the way the produce at the plate relative to their other at bats.
...This won't be a popular thing to say, but the Angel approach on the batting side is pure Moneyball. That is, the economics side of the argument, not the specific attributes the Athletics front office found undervalued. If multiple mid-budget teams are pursuing high-OB guys and steering away from the speedy contact hitters, there will develop an overlay in speedy contact hitters. There will develop and overlay in talent who aren't so speedy but are trainable.
If the Angels hit .290 with RISP and .260 without (just making these numbers up), why don't they just hit like they do with RISP all the time?
My guess is that the Angels organization have tried to discover it (when others have completely ignored it) and have some system they think works. High contact guys are going to tend to be better with RISP than high walk, high K guys (with respect to each player's normal results) just because a strike out is particularly bad with RISP (without, it is just another out), and a walk doesn't really help unless the bases are loaded (whereas walks without RISP get people on so that later hitters can knock them in). Like someone said in the BTF comments, you really have to look at how they do relative to the average change. If every team is boosted by .015 points with RISP, then the Angels improvement in andrew's example would only really be .015 OVER the league average improvement...still likely significant, but not necessarily so ridiculous.
Then he must be one of the most successful "full of it" managers this century....
In case I was unclear, Scioscia never took credit for devising it; I get the sense that the organization (perhaps Black & Scioscia included, perhaps before they arrived) worked it out several years back since they've been developing and training players against that for some years. This is basically counter to the way Scioscia batted himself; he went deeper into counts as a rule to walk more frequently than league averages -- it would be abnormal, though not impossible, for someone to install a set of tactics that went against their own pattern that succeeded reasonably well.
RE: if there's an actual skill to being successful with RISP, then why can't it be applied to other situations?
What josh said. Put a runner on first, a pitcher's pitch selection will be different. Make the count 2-0, change what the pitcher throws and where. A reasonably intelligent batter will have a better (still imperfect, just better) incremental chance of guessing correctly, and in turn this gives the batter a better (still imperfect, just better) incremental chance of doing something good with the pitch. So teaching about this situation *might* help a batter in other situations, but probably not -- just as learning to bunt well has helped some batters become better at their swinging, but usually it has no effect.
I don't think Scioscia at this point needs to justify his existence to anyone, despite the worst efforts of the J.D. Drew fanclub.
Doubling stealing with Vlad up.
Letting Erstad have 600 at bats.
I know these are isolated incidents, but if this is what I remember, who knows what else he's done. Time to start justifying his existence.
* Near-unanimous second-place prediction in 2004.
* Consensus second-place pick in 2005.
I know these are isolated incidents, but if this is what I remember, who knows what else they've done. Time to start figuring out why the beloved, Erstad-free Athletics aren't living up to the expectations of people who, laughably, think Scioscia needs to "justify his existence."
Andrew -- regardless of what Matt says, Scioscia does employ some stupid tactics from time to time. That said, a double steal in front of Vlad isn't necessarily a bad idea; he's principally a spray hitter, so it's more likely he'll get a hit than something over the fence.
Matt -- your response to Andrew sounds exactly like the kind of ex post facto reasoning Steve was referring to upthread. The problem here is that there have been so many attempts to find clutch hitting and all of them have failed. Sure, you can find guys who will give you some ghostly vanishing trace every so often, but nobody's been able to prove it. Show me some mathematical proof that this stuff translates to runs scored and that it's a true ability. Steve is right to be skeptical, but let us not dismiss it out of hand, either.
Scioscia is peddling snake oil. He's looking at numbers and trying to come up with explanations for them. Numbers that really don't even need explanation. Of course hitting with RISP is a good thing. It's better than not hitting with RISP. But if this amazing skill of hitting and getting on base with RISP actually existed, why would one not employ it to get on base and start the process?
There are all sorts of reasons for these stories, most of them having to do with justifying the presence on the roster of overpaid mediocrities like Cabrera and Finley. Scioscia and crew, as we know, have nothing on their own PR department, much less the toadies and lapdogs that make up their marching society. Meanwhile, the Angels undeniably have a lot of talent will continue to have a lot of talent, and whatever absurdity Scioscia wants to peddle on whatever day, it's ok with me as long as they beat the Yankees.
Yes, I should add that in talking about having runners be aggressive and sending them on specific pitches, Scioscia said during the interview, "You’re going to get a hell of a lot of singles with a guy on first. No matter which team, you’re going to get a lot more singles than home runs. If you can get that guy to third instead of to second that’s a lot better statistical position to be in. If you can create more of those situations, you’re going to have more runs on the bottom line."
The 1996 season of Rob Deer is the only exception I can find, though I'm not sure that would be an indication I would bank on as normal.
Yeah, because I'm *always* saying Scioscia's perfect. Always. Nearly every day.
And I'm sorry Rob, but you'll have to refer me to when I have *ever* written about clutch hitting, either here or elsewhere. I have limited my comments on this thread to addressing the mathematical, contra post facto notions that "Mike Scioscia is full of it," and needs to "justify" his "existence." My response to Andrew was an attempt at humor (since ruined by explanation), and had as much to do with clutch hitting or Jeff Angus' fascinating article as J.D. Drew does with this year's World Series.
Scioscia is peddling snake oil. He's looking at numbers and trying to come up with explanations for them.
Yes, in the absence of statistical proof. Maybe he has it, and we haven't seen it. But until he or someone else does, this amounts to the kind of "I have found a truly wonderful proof of this, but this interview is too short for me to explain it".
Matt -- I didn't mean you agreed with Scioscia's every move; we've been through a whole season together, so you'd think I knew your disagreements with Mike by now. And again I didn't mean to imply you were talking about clutch hitting, only that Scioscia seems to be and believing in same as an ability, thus flying in the face of everything we know about "clutch" as an ability.
I wouldn't be so quick with the "everything we know" card; there is some well-researched disagreement in the stathead community about whether certain players (Gary Sheffield, for example) consistently add value with their clutch hitting.
And I would think that, regardless of belief, a manager *should* be figuring out ways to optimize situational performance, even if that means blowing smoke up everyone's asses. The Angels *have* led the league the last two years in batting average with RISP & two outs; it's perfectly conceivable (to me, anyway) that the Scioscia/Hatcher approach helps a little bit there, just as it's perfectly conceivable that their approach *hurts* with no runners on.
On one hand I guess I envy the conviction that all clutch is BS & any emphasis on Productive Outs is foolish. But on the other it seems that if one is gonna walk around making schoolyard taunts at people who don't share that atheism, the burden of proof lies more with the debunker, and one of the first problems to grapple with is why Team Stupid seems to defy Smart prediction by winning, while Team Smart keeps falling short.
Yes, but every single study that I've read that makes any comment to this effect has to lard it with so many caveats it may as well say, "no clutch for you".
And I would think that, regardless of belief, a manager *should* be figuring out ways to optimize situational performance, even if that means blowing smoke up everyone's asses.
Now this I can get behind.
On one hand I guess I envy the conviction that all clutch is BS & any emphasis on Productive Outs is foolish.
When the PO people can show that their nonsense has a positive and strong correlation with runs scored, I will believe them. As it stands, it doesn't, and therefore I laugh at the superior intellect. (Or something.)