ALCS Preview: A tale of two managers

Poor umpiring an unwanted playoff sub-plot
Where did Phil Hughes' curveball go?

When the Yankees and the Angels begin their ALCS series on Friday, the coverage on FOX is sure to center around the two men leading these teams. Mike Scioscia and Joe Girardi have a lot in common. They were both defensive-minded catchers known for playing hard and coming prepared. As managers, they both sport identical .556 winning percentages although the Angels’ skipper has compiled his over ten seasons while Girardi has just three years of experience in the dugout.

The Angels, as we all know, play the Yankees hard. Including the post-season, the Angels are 53-38 against the Yanks since Scioscia assumed the managerial duties from Terry Collins and Joe Maddon after a fourth-place finish in 1999. As Ken Davidoff writes today, Scioscia is not intimidated by the Yankees. But what Major League manager would be intimidated by any of his opponents?

This year, Scioscia led his team to 97 victories, good for second best in the Major Leagues and six shy of the Yanks’ mark. When these two teams faced off, they played to a draw. The Angels won four of the first six contest, and the Yanks won three of the last four. Yet, despite their respective successes, Mike Scioscia and Joe Girardi approach the game differently. We can see it in the way the Yankees draw more walks, hit more home runs and rely less on the small base approach embodied in bunting, stealing and hitting-and-running than the Angels do.

Offensively, the Angels’ differing approach is clear from the get-go. The Yankees hit a franchise-record 244 home runs this year and slugged .478 as a team. The Angels hit 71 fewer home runs and slugged .441. Bobby Abreu and Chone Figgins both drew more than 90 walks, but only one other player on the team had an on-base percentage above .360. Of the Yanks’ starting nine, only Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano sported OBPs below that .360 mark. The Angels like to swing and run; the Yankees like to wait and mash.

Strategically, Scioscia takes advantage of his team’s speed. He attempted 171 stolen bases this year, and his runners were successful 127 times good for a 74.2 percent success rate. Joe Girardi’s Yankees meanwhile were better base runners but more cautious for it. The Yanks attempted 124 steals and were successful 101 times or 81.5 percent of the time. The Angels went 9 for 11 in double-steal situations while the Yanks were a perfect 4-for-4. Expect the Angels to test Jorge Posada when he is behind the dish during the series.

Scioscia will also play small ball far more often than the Yanks do. Joe Girardi asked his players to sacrifice 49 times this season, and 21 of those sac bunt attempts came with the pitcher batting during Interleague play. The Angels, meanwhile, tried to sacrifice 64 times with non-pitchers trying 41 times. Percentage-wise, 57 percent of Yankee bunts were by non-pitchers while 64 percent of Angels’ bunt attempts were by non-pitchers. Scioscia will, in other words, play for one run.

Where this series may very well be decided, though, is in the bullpen. Joe Girardi made 461 pitching changes as compared to Scioscia’s 434, and the Yankees got better results for it. Yankee relievers did not allow runs to score in 301 of those appearances or 65 percent of the time. The Angels, meanwhile, did not allow runs 62 percent of the time. While that pure difference is seemingly small, the Yanks’ pen went 40-17 with a 3.91 ERA while the Angels’ relievers were 27-23 with a 4.49 ERA. As Mike noted last night, the Anaheim pen is definitely a weakness.

And so those are the ALCS managers. Can Scioscia exploit the Angels’ speed and small ball approach? Can Joe Girardi use his superior bullpen to leverage late-inning situations better than the Angels can? Can the Yanks’ skipper win his chess game? These two men will take center stage over the next week, and we’ll find out just whose strategy works best.

Poor umpiring an unwanted playoff sub-plot
Where did Phil Hughes' curveball go?
  • andrew

    A tale of two umpires? Did you mean Managers?

    • andrew

      Ah, there you go. It’s early, i understand.

  • jsbrendog

    don’t forget too that fuentes, while being solid this year blew i believe 2 saves to the yankees if i am not mistaken, one of which was a walkoff no?

    • Dela G

      fuentes was far from solid

      he was shaky at best in my opinion

      • JGS

        3.93 ERA and a 1.400 WHIP as a closer is not really what you want. That’s the same WHIP Lidge put up in 2006 when he had Pujols haunting him

  • Chris

    Strategically, Scioscia takes advantage of his team’s speed. He attempted 171 stolen bases this year, and his runners were successful 127 times good for a 74.2 percent success rate.

    Where did you get these numbers from? Baseball reference has the Angels with 148 stolen bases and 63 caught stealing, for a success rate of 70%.

    Whatever the right numbers are, I don’t think Scoscia is taking advantage of his team’s speed. He’s just running into more outs. The 70% success rate for steals is 21st in MLB (The Yankees by contrast have the 3rd best success rate).

    • Mike bk

      espn has the same sb stats you referenced for the Angels. Also list the Yanks with 111 steals 28 CS for 80%. the angels might be running themselves into outs but they also had the most runners go from 1st to 3rd on singles of any team, so they are very aggressive on the bases and make the defense throw them out and you can bet on damon they will try to take the extra bag every time.

      • Chris

        I’m not too worried about Damon. I’m confident that he can reach third from left field.

        • Matt ACTY/BBD

          Yeah, he can reach third, but can he do it in time? Along with having a weak throwing arm, Damon usually takes a long time to get the ball out.

      • Benjamin Kabak

        These numbers are from Baseball Prospectus’ manager stats.

  • Dela G

    eh, the angels’ speed thing is overrated when they only stole 26 more bases than the yanks. Yippee…. They have guys who will run, as do the yankees.

    The key is to limiting the amount of times they are on base. I am tired of hearing this “first to third” notion, as the yankees were third in the league in productive outs behind the angels and red sox, but of course, no one will ever mention how good the yankees are at moving from first to third, right? The yanks were able to score in every way against the twins, and will do it again against the angels

    Who cares how you score in the playoffs, as long as you keep on scoring. The yankees will score, its just they have to keep the pressure on the LAAAAAAA of CA of US and take games one and two before going back to anaheim.

    The key in this series will be a-rod, who owns the angels, and especially that ballpark in anaheim. Their pitching, other than kazmir, isn’t scaring anyone, and their bullpen is at or below average.

    Let’s hope the yanks don’t have to let this series go anywhere past 5 or 6 games

    • Hello

      With CC and Andy potentially pitching 5 of 7 games and Molina catching the other 2 it is not going to be so easy for the Angels to steal a lot of bases. I think there is actually a decent possibility that the Yankees will steal more bases than the Angels in this series, b/c their catchers are worse than Posada at throwing guys out.

      Their pitching does not scare me either. Weaver’s ERA is 2 runs higher on the road this year and he is a flyball pitcher. Not a recipe for success at YS. Also CC is definitely better than Lackey.

  • Matt ACTY/BBD

    While the Angels overall swung the third least percentage in the AL(behind Boston and New York), they swung at the fifth most pitches out of the zone. So, it seems that when you can get the Angels to swing, they’ll likely chase.

  • Mike bk

    if we can figgins and abreu in check as far as being on base their running game is basically done and we should let Jete, Gardy and A-rod run on napoli and mathis all day since combined they were 70 for 80 in swiping bags this year.

    • Mike bk

      keep figgins…

    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      Just because the Yankees are playing a “running” team doesn’t mean that they should start running free. Though the Yankees were more successful this year, it’s because they were cautious about it. I’d rather the Yankees keep that patient approach on the basepaths than have them run for the sake of running and produce unnecessary outs.

  • Rose

    While this Angels team is different that previous teams (in regards to more patience, less hackers as a whole) they still have a lot of that style left in them. That being said, I believe the reasons they were so successful against the Yankees in the past is because we didn’t have very good pitching…and bad pitching plus hackers and speed = bad results. The Angels would lose to the Red Sox because they had much better pitching and good pitching plus hackers and speed = good results.

    What doomed the Red Sox this year in the ALDS was their road numbers. If you look at their offensive numbers on the road…they are actually worse than the Pittsburgh Pirates are at home. So the Angels were able to play the Pittsburgh Pirates the first two games…and the Red Sox on the 3rd game…in which they won because they can hit on the road…and Papelbon is an overrated Bobby Jenks. The Red Sox still have good starting pitching and the Angels didn’t score that much off of them (aside from Beckett).

    The Yankees numbers at home and on the road are pretty consistent…and very good at that. I feel our starting pitching and bullpen can hold them down…while our hitting will be there as always. I worry about Johnny Damon and I sometimes wonder if some of the young bullpen arms will choke under the pressure…but we have some experienced guys too that are able to start…and close the door if necessary. The first two games are crucial…mainly because we’ll probably have Chad Gaudin going up against Joe Saunders…who we haven’t had that great of success against…

    • Benjamin Kabak

      I agree with this entire analysis except your last sentence. I believe the Yanks will start CC in Game 4 on three days’ rest and avoid having to use Gaudin at all as a starter. They can then bring CC back on full rest for a potential Game 7 and get three starts out of their ace in a seven-game set.

      • Matt ACTY/BBD


      • Rose

        I know it may not be that big of a concern…but CC’s past “woes” in the playoffs were mainly due to the amount of innings he had pitched during the regular season. As CC’s innings climb in the ALDS and ALCS (if he does pitch 3 times especially) do you feel this will hinder his performance for his potential starts in the World Series? If all of these starts go underway as anticipated…he would probably have around the same amount of innings (if not more in some cases) as he did in years past when he wasn’t as successful in the postseason…is this at all a concern?

        • Raf

          i dont think you worry so much about hindering his performance in the WS until you get there. CC starting 3 out of a potential 7 games this series gives the Yankees the best shot at winning the series.

          and i dont think the total innings last year is what doomed CC in his playoff start, it was the lack of rest he had in the final couple of weeks of the season which were necessary to get the Brewers in.

        • http://Youcan'tincreaseyourrange TLVP

          I’d rather have Gaudin + bull penn in game 4 and a fully rested CC in game 5

          I realise i’m in a minority on this but for me the argument that looking at the WS and having CC available for WS game 1 even if we go to 7 games in ALCS is very attractive

          I would change my mind if ALCS game 1 is a blow out (say we are up 6-7 runs after 4 innings) and we can pull CC early.

          CC is about the only starter in the world right now who has got stats on 3 days rest, he’s on contract for a furtehr $140m the next 6 years

          • Kiersten

            Having CC pitch game 7 is more important than having him lined up for game 1 of the WS since, you know, if we lose game 7, then there is no WS.

            Although I fully trust Pettitte in game 7.

            • http://Youcan'tincreaseyourrange TLVP

              I think we all feel we can trust Pettitte in game 7

              I’m not saying its a no brainer to go with Gaudin but he’s not bad and we have a lot of offense

              I guess it’s partly down to the first 3 games – if we are down 0-3 (ain’t happening) it’s got to be CC. If we are up 3-0 (MFY yeah!) I’d go with Gaudin

        • Jeremy

          The Yankees have to be more concerned about making it to the WS than CC’s innings load. Unless they have reason to fear that CC is worn out, they have to run him out there.

        • mvg

          CC pitched 23 innings less (253 vs. 230) this year than he did in 2008 during the regular season. His final three starts of the 2008 regular season were all on three days rest, as well as his one post season start. The guy made five starts in 17 days last year.

          His bad start, and two mediocre starts, in 2007 came when he pitched 241 innings in the regular season. Both 2007 and 2008 were career highs for him. The Yankees scaled him back this year, and he had his best career post season start. He’s shown he’s good to go for at least a couple games on short rest, but obviously not four in a row. I think he’ll be all right.

          • GG

            5 starts in 17 days is G shit

    • Chris

      I actually don’t think they start Gaudin. I would expect CC to go on 3 days rest in game 4. That would allow AJ, Andy and CC to pitch again on regular rest in games 5, 6, and 7 – and no fourth starter.

  • Jeremy

    TBS constantly told us that the Twins do the little things right and have to fight for every run, yet they made two game-changing baserunning mistakes. I hope something similar happens with the Angels. I’m tired of sportscasters praising teams because it’s hard for them to score runs.

    • GG

      very true…and its funny that Gardy gave the Yanks their due as well saying how they work hard and do all the little things right….Nobody said that about the Yanks all year, it was always about the money and the bludgeoning, but its an extremely sound baseball team

  • Ellis

    Nice analysis, this is my favorite kind of RAB post. Tons of numbers, and the rights ones to look at.

  • LosingOurHeads

    A read a post on Halos Heaven or whatever blog it is that said the Yankees bench is old.

  • Tank the Frank

    Where did the perception that the Angels lineup has trouble against power pitching come from? I know it wasn’t mentioned in this post but I’ve heard it before. They seemed to do well against Lester, Papelbon and Co. Anyone know where I can find the Angels’ numbers vs power pitching/power fastballs?

  • Tank Foster

    I don’t think what the managers do will have much of an effect in this series. The strategy is about 5% of it, in my book, the rest is player execution. Bobby Abreu helped the Angels a ton this season, but I don’t think they are quite as good as their record suggests, and I don’t think they will beat the Yankees this time.

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  • Bo

    Girardi is giving LaRussa a run for his money on the over managing. The list is endless. pulling Andy, Joba couldnt face Kubel, Molina, etc etc.

    • Doug



    it would be smart to see our 3 best pitchers each get to pitch the most games so i agree with the idea of a three man rotation. I was at CC’s start in game one of the ALDS and he feel behind the hitters alot but his stuff was so nasty that he could battle through it and ended up not walking anyone. as long as CC and AJ can throw strikes and not walk guys i like our chances. If they walk guys against the angels they will make you pay for it and it could cost you a game or the series. I think that this series will be a lot tougher than alot of yankee fans are making it out to be. so the yankees have the talent and the will to be the last team standing, of coarse…but that angels team is on a roll and are playing with some extra motivation for Nick Adenheart. I think it will be an amazing series, but im not thinking that it will be an easy one thats for sure.

    p.s. i couldnt be happier for Arod and i hope he keeps it up, the stadium went nuts when he came through in game one and now he seems to have the fans on his side, its awesome to see.

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