Angels Manager Mike Scioscia doesn't need to crunch numbers to know… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Mike Scioscia might be perceived as more old-school than computer geek, but the Angels manager does study in-depth batting statistics.
With Howie Kendrick, the research is paying dividends.
“Some of the stuff is very good, and it can help you slot and match guys up,” Scioscia said. “You have to address where the pieces fit.”
Scioscia moved Kendrick from second to sixth in the batting order April 30, and the second baseman is batting .333 since heading into Thursday’s afternoon contest against the Chicago White Sox at Angels Stadium.
Kendrick batted fifth Thursday, partially due to the continuing absence of right fielder Torii Hunter, who was placed on the restricted list Monday following the arrest of his 17-year-old son, Darius, on suspicion of sexual assault.
The oddity of Kendrick’s 26-point leap in batting average is that he went without a run batted in from May 3 to Wednesday, but Scioscia said by platooning Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo in Kendrick’s old No. 2 spot, and hitting Kendrick behind Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, the RBIs are sure to come.
“It hasn’t showed up like it will, but we are creating more situations, and long-range, it makes more sense,” Scioscia said. “[Kendrick’s] in a spot better suited for him. There’s no reason he can’t hit in 85 to 90 runs with … what we project.”
Scioscia declined to identify which stat service he leans upon, but publicly accessible data through Baseball Reference and Fan Graphs is insightful, even rating a player’s value toward a victory.
FAMILIAR CONSULTANT: New Angels hitting coach Jim Eppard carried a clipboard into the clubhouse, chatted with a couple players and wrote a new batting-cage time (10:40 a.m.) on a white board.
“For me, it’s just a matter of connecting with them, just talking – there’s a lot of uncharted water here,” Eppard said.
The challenges of replacing fired 13-season hitting coach Mickey Hatcher are eased by Eppard’s rapport with some of his old students while spending 10 years as hitting coach at Triple-A Salt Lake.
One of those is Kendrick, who had 104 at-bats under Eppard from 2006 to 2009.
“He definitely understands hitting and he’ll do a good job for us,” Kendrick said.
WELLS’ VALUE INCREASES: There is clearly sentiment in the Angels’ fan base for an outfield of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Hunter (when he returns), relegating highly paid left fielder Vernon Wells to a bench role.
After batting .218 with 86 strikeouts last season, Wells strengthened his case to remain in the lineup Wednesday by slugging his team-high sixth home run. He’s now batting .244, and is on pace to shrink his strikeouts total by nearly 20.
“It’s getting better, closer to being back where I need to be – barreling up the balls,” Wells, 33, said. “It’s about getting on base, creating runs, doing whatever the situation is, putting one in the seats.”
Scioscia pointed to Wells’ .305 batting average in nine games before Thursday, and said placing such power in the back end of the lineup is critical.