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.