Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia

Winter Meetings interview with Mike Scioscia

Q. Mike, looking at how the roster is shaping up, what do you think this team still needs?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's pretty clear about where I think we need to go and where our upgrades need to be, and it starts on the offensive side, blending in with the offensive pieces giving you a cohesive defense. Billy is working very hard on that. And I expect us to improve offensively by the time we start the season.

Q. You guys would appear to have an outfield spot available, when you look at this winter, there's more big name, marquee-type outfielders. Is that a good thing when you have a void like that and a winter like this?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think there's a number of positions we are looking to stabilize before we get through the winter. There's a lot of big names in the outfield, no doubt, that would fit on our club. There's also a lot of guys that you bring in that can piecemeal it and platoon and give you the production you're looking at.

I think there's a lot of different areas that you can become a better team offensively, not necessarily with a big splash and the big free agents. I think, needless to say, we have to improve offensively, and it might be with a high-profile name and it might be with piecing them together with guys that you platoon that might give you something close to that end point anyway.

Q. What have been your impressions of Billy Eppler so far?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He's so easy to talk to. He's a great communicator. This guy's one of those guys that has that 25th hour in the day. I don't know where he gets his time and energy.

But he's very, very diligent. I think he understands the process of team building, not only as a team on the field but behind the scenes. And I think he's getting guys around him that he's very comfortable with and guys that are going to make good decisions and evaluations to get us where we need to be.

Q. Do you guys talk every morning?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah.

Q. How much do you appreciate the communication?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think communication is important, and especially right now, there's a lot going on, we're going to speak every day, whether it's a text or a conversation, the communication has to be there, and it's been there. I think Billy has put together a group that is going to make really good decisions for us. We are very confident in that.

Buddy Black being involved and the guys he's brought in outside of the organization from New York, these guys are all very passionate. They understand the situation. I think that as important as it is for Billy and myself, a manager, to communicate, I think that going up the ladder, to Billy, to Jack, that's all in place, and that's important to us.

Q. How hard is it to adjust to different styles?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: From a personal level, none. There's no adjustment. I think you have to be yourself. I think going into this, I'm very hard-headed, I'm opinionated. I give my opinions. I think if you look at the other 29 managers, you could probably give the same profile. I don't think anybody is shy about giving their opinions, and I'm certainly not, but you're also going to be said no to more than you're said yes. If you asked a manager about a team and what you wanted to do, you'd have $400 million payrolls and everyone would love it.

I think what's really happening is really -- and as a personal level, I've given my opinion to whatever general manager I've worked for, and you have to leave it at that. I'm never shy about doing that.

Q. Do you talk every day because he's new, because he's got a lot going on, or he's a GM that's going to talk to his manager every day because he's the GM?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Everybody's different. Billy, he's had a tall order since he came on board, not only to kind of evaluate the wounds of maybe getting knocked out of the Postseason or not getting to the Postseason the last day of the season, to evaluating the team and evaluating the staff. He's had a tall order, and he's asked for a lot of input. It's been good.

Q. How different is this relationship with Billy than maybe the previous GM?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think everybody's different. Every relationship's different. I don't think there's -- from my aspect, there's not much difference in when you're asked for your opinion, you give it. So not much difference there.

Q. You've had a lot of changes in your coaching staff. Why did you guys feel it was necessary to shuffle the deck so much?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think that as this game continues to evolve and definitely the specialization continues to evolve as far as batting, where it's applied, we've made some adjustments. And when you get an opportunity to bring back an incredible baseball mind like Ron Roenicke, you want to take advantage of it.

It forced us to move some things around -- not forced us, but made us move some things around. I think that all the moves we made have a specific reason. And Alfredo on the bench just concentrates on defense and gives him a chance to talk to the defenders when they are off the field, as opposed to having ten seconds before he goes out and coaches first base.

There are some pragmatic reasons why we made some adjustments. It can help us be more cohesive and communicate more during the game. There's a function amount to it.

Q. How confident are you that you guys can get back to having that cohesiveness with player development?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: That's already happened. Mike Gallego, Eric Chavez, these guys have all been brought on board, and they understand I think the need for the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues to be on the same page and communicate. And they also understand the vision we have for how we want to play the game.

Obviously it's contingent on some individual talent things, like we were talking about before how about on the field what you're going to be able to do, but as an organization, that philosophy, it will be reestablished.

Q. A lot of guys are talking about this; is there an evolution now in the role of the manager?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I hope not. I think a manager is a manager.

Q. Somebody asked Joe Maddon yesterday, as much information as you can get, I want it and it has to be accurate information and that type of thing, but he says this is really not fantasy baseball. It's real baseball with real people, not just numbers.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Absolutely. I think that I found that any people skills you have are more applicable and have to be applied on a daily basis, along with any data that you get that has to be condensed and almost translated into a format that players can actually apply and use.

And I think that we are all on board with the understanding of data that comes in that is going to make you better has to be applied. And it will be.

Q. They are people. They are human beings, too.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Exactly. And you always take that into account.

So I don't think the role of the manager is going to evolve to anything more than it was 50 years ago where it was still -- you still needed those people skills. Maybe 50 years ago what the manager said just went and was never questioned.

But those people skills are critical to the job you have to do, because you're relating with people. You're not relating to data. You're relating to people.

So the influx of data that's come into this game over the last 15 years has made us all better, made our decision-making process cleaner, and it has to be applied, but it has to be applied in a format that players understand. And I don't mean -- you just have to make it functional to a hitter in the batter's box, who doesn't really have a lot of time to think; you're reacting to the defensive positioning on specific counts. All this has to be translated and brought into a player to help him apply it on the field.

Q. How much of a game changer can your new shortstop be?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: From the defensive side, we had a pretty good one there before. But I think Andrelton is a defender that is separated from pretty much any shortstop in the game, from any scouting report I've read; talking with people in the Braves organization that saw him both in the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues, and we're excited to get that piece into our team.

That said, I think he's going to be a difference maker. There's absolutely no doubt. The pressing need for our club is offense. And so as Andrelton plays shortstop, he's going to pick it and make us better, we also have to infuse what he does on the offensive side into our lineup. And looking around and evaluating, he puts the ball in play. He's a good situational hitter. He's got a little bit of power.

So his offense will be important to us just as well as he plays defense.

Q. Do you think there's some upside there with him offensively?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: If there isn't, he's going to bring -- offense is going to be important to us. If he gets back to driving the ball like he did maybe three years ago, great. If he doesn't, he still has that batter's box ability to bring a situational hitting component, get on base when he needs to. He can run well. Our lineup needs nine guys that are going to contribute offensively. So that's important.

Q. What are you expecting out of Albert Pujols considering his surgery?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: The most we need from Albert is his 650 plate appearances and hitting in the middle of our lineup and being as productive as he is. And if we can do that with him playing the Gold Glove-caliber first base that he can bring, great.

But we definitely don't want to jeopardize his ability in the batter's box with what he does at first base. We saw that during the last month of the season where he was primarily DHing because of his foot. That's important to us.

But if we can get Albert, if Albert comes in and he's healthy in the spring and can get out there and play first base during the season with us, we're a better team. There's no doubt about that.

Q. Will you talk to him about backing off defense?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We've talked over the last couple years when he's been banged up, but that conversation is a little premature because we don't know where he's -- if I know Albert, he's always ahead of schedule when he has injuries and surgeries.

So we're not ruling out that he's not going to be ready at the start of the season. We'll evaluate this as it goes on. But Albert, he's just a special talent. And if it comes to where he can swing the bat and isn't able to play first base, so be it. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Q. In Philadelphia, we are just getting to learn about the new general manager. What can you tell us about him and what you've learned with your time with him over the last few years?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Matt might be one of the easiest guys in baseball to talk to. He's a great listener and I think that he'll do really well with gathering information, getting input from everybody, to have a cleaner decision-making process. I think he's going to be terrific.

Q. Do you feel like you need a lead-off hitter?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, we need table setters. We need guys -- if you look at just the simple statistical analysis you can do, looking at the first page of our stat sheet, you can see where we didn't pressure teams because we weren't getting on base.

At times we drove the ball, but, for the most part, we weren't able to do a lot of the things; our team speed wasn't there that could help you to create a little more if you weren't getting on base quite so often.

So there's a lot of things that we need to do than just specifically say lead-off hitter. We absolutely need to set the table better for Mike Trout. That's an absolute -- how that happens, if it's a lead-off hitter, guy on second or if it's two guys ahead of him or if he's second with a great on-base guy ahead of him; that's one of the goals is to get a deeper lineup with particularly being able to set the table for, in particular, Mike, better than we did last year.

Q. Would you consider that more of a priority than somebody to hit behind Albert?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: They are both. That's what I'm saying. Hopefully we've got enough spackle to fill four holes and we don't have to kind of have the spackle for two holes and figure out which one you leave open. Hopefully we're going to have a deep lineup, and the person to hit behind Albert is just as essential as the guys that are going to be setting the table for Mike, if we are going to plug the offensive leaks that we need to to have a cohesive offense that we didn't have last year. You guys saw it.

Q. How do you see the catching situation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You know, Carlos Perez showed us so much, particularly in the pennant race. He's a young catcher, and he was playing, splitting time with Chris, and then just took off with the position and was playing as well as any catcher in baseball for the last month of the season.

Soto is going to be an experienced player that's going to come in and hopefully take some of the pressure for Carlos to have to jump right in and repeat that. Although, whoever is playing better will win playing time, and it's definitely an opportunity for Carlos to go out there and be that every day catcher.

Q. How good are your catchers at framing and do you think framing is as important as a lot of people are saying right now?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's really important. I think the technology is such where we're getting able to quantify it better in the last year or two than probably earlier. And I think that if you look at how Carlos graded out, he didn't grade out great on some of the framing metrics that we use, but as far as his overall production with the pitchers, he was terrific. So I think there's some things in the study that maybe are getting better but maybe don't tell the whole picture.

But I know that both our guys are doing things that our pitchers need behind the plate and they are good defensive players.

Q. The pitcher usage, data shows that pitchers are far less effective the third time through the order. Where do you stand on the idea of shortening starters' outings and is there a way to change or improve the third time through the order?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think talking about the macro link you're talking about is nice. We look at the micro. I want to see how Jered Weaver is the third time through in the order, a specific grouping. C.J. Wilson. All our pitchers.

Oddly enough, you see a variance last year where the third time around some guys were effective and some guys weren't. To build a staff and arbitrarily say the third time around is off limits I think is dysfunctional. I don't know if you're going to be able to have -- you're definitely going to have to go to a 14- or 15-man staff to be able to do that, and I think you're just too short on the offensive ends.

I think there's more specialized data that helps you to make the decision-making process when a pitcher it finished. I think as a rule in the macro, you're right about the third time around being more of an offensive match up for hitters. But there are some specific things within pitchers that show that maybe it's not every pitcher or maybe it's not to the degree that is going to be impactful to where you're not going to let that guy go out there and get those five or six more outs that the team needs.

Q. Going back to the framing, Chris, the statistics show, made a pretty big leap --

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He did. If you saw where he was when he first came over and how hard he worked with Steve Soliz and Tom Gregorio, Chris improved tenfold. And it was fun to watch and he was excited about it.

I think Chris has come as far with any catcher as I've seen. He worked very hard at it. I do think that there's an element of experience that most catchers need to improve. You get some guys that come up at a very young age, really soft hands and catch the ball well. Doesn't mean they are not going to get better as time goes on.

With Carlos, I definitely feel there is an element of experience that is going to help him. And you look at a guy like Soto and how much -- if you look at what his -- and they didn't have -- they weren't quantifying it when he first broke in with Chicago, but where he was then and how he improved, there's no doubt that catchers have become more proficient in receiving as time goes on, to a certain point. And then maybe when they get old, old, it starts to regress because just the reactions might be slipping a little bit.

I don't know if that answers your question or not. I guess the answer is yes.

Q. Have you talked to Weaver at all about what is he doing differently to try to get back?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes. I think we started a little earlier. He certainly started on a lot of his core strength earlier. He started to throw. It's a balance of trying to reboot after a long year, and he has -- we've had some special challenges of trying to regain a little bit more crispness on some of his pitches.

He's working hard at it. We'll see where he is. Talked to him a couple weeks ago. He's really confident that he's going to be where he needs to be when we start the season.

Q. How do you see your pitching staff right now? Do you see needs there in the rotation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, you might have an organization that's nine-deep in pitching and you want that tenth guy. You have ten, you want 11. I don't think there's any time where you sit back and go, hey, we have enough pitching. I don't think you've ever heard that out of any manager or GM to say, oh, we have enough pitchers. You always want to stack the deck and have the depth there.

So I think that with the emergence of like Andrew Heaney, you see Shoe come back and hopefully regain some of the form he had a couple years ago, Nick Tropeano, some of our younger pitchers, getting Tyler Skaggs back in his group. Hector Santiago you hope has broken through to be that starter he has the potential to be. C.J., Weaver, all the guys that are going to make up the rotation.

I think we have the depth there that will give us that type of rotation we're looking for. But you're always looking to add to it. Particularly in the bullpen where our guys were phenomenal.

I mean, we won -- I think it was 33 one-run games last year for one reason and one reason only: Our bullpen. Although those guys did a great job last year, they probably were out there a little more than they are comfortable with.

So you'd like to increase some depth there and get some more guys, either young guys emerging like Cam Bedrosian or Mike Morin coming back and having a full season like he can. Fernando Salas will take a lot of pressure off Trevor and Joe Smith.

Q. Is Simmons strictly a bottom-of-the-order hitter?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think if he hits on the top, it will be more of a match-up situation where you feel good about where he is, maybe some guys are getting a day off. But for the most part, he looks like he's more suited to hit not necessarily ninth, but somewhere where there's not as much pressure to set the table.

Q. Do you feel like you need a left-handed offense or just offense?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We need offense, but I think at some -- whatever position it might be we're trying to improve, you'd like one of them to be a left-handed bat. But if it is, it is. If it isn't, it isn't. We need offense.