Mike Scioscia Calls The Fall Off Of Scott Kazmir ‘Mind Boggling,’ Feels Angels Have A Championship Caliber Ball Club

June 20, 2011 – 5:30 am by Steven Cuce

A shift of power has taken place over the last few seasons in the AL West. A division in which the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had a stronghold over the last few years. The Angels have given way to the Texas Rangers, who reached the World Series last year, and this season Anaheim sits at 35-38, currently three games behind the Rangers and in third place in the American League West.

The Angels are 24th in runs scored which has put a ton of pressure on the pitching staff to be perfect. Mike Scioscia isn’t going to use the word ‘transition’ as an excuse for his team’s struggles this season. He feels the Angels have the talent to be a championship caliber team with a bunch of youngsters coming up. The release of Scott Kazmir, a pitcher who was once though of as up-and-coming, has disappointed many in the organization, but the Angles had to cut bait at some point with a pitcher who wasn’t making progress. One thing is for certain: Mike Scioscia is a class act as a manager and his team will fight and claw their way to the very end. You can count on that and don’t discount this Angles team just yet.

Mike Scioscia joined ESPN Radio New York onThe Michael Kay Show [Don La Greca/Bill Daughtry] to discuss the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim being a team in transition this year, the Angles pitching staff feeling pressure due to the lack of offensive production, the release of Scott Kazmir and changes to the rule book with collisions at home plate after the Buster Posey incident.

Do you view this as an Angels team in transition considering you haven’t been as strong as you have been in years past?

“There is definitely some transition going on with some younger players, but I think our team is definitely championship caliber. That’s what we are going to keep moving forward with. We have some guys like Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, who haven’t gotten into their game and are very important to us. Some of our pitchers are starting to pitch a little bit better. In the bullpen especially that’s very important to us moving on. I think sure there is always a slight transition going on with the team and we have a lot of youngsters that are coming up and are trying to cut their baby teeth in the big leagues and there’s going to be some learning curves and growing pains, but the talent is there and we feel we are a contending team and we have not hit stride at all this year. We see potential to get this thing going and you want to keep this thing moving forward a little bit at the time and hopefully get on that run.”

We’re looking at the stats and see 24th in runs scored. Is there pressure on your pitching staff to perform exceptionally well due to the fact that your hitting isn’t that strong?

“I think there’s definitely been some of our pitchers that when you go start after start and you’re always throwing that 2-1 fastball  into the middle of the lineup. The hitters may be in the third or fourth [inning], but you’re just a little concerned that you have to make a fine pitch because it’s 0-0 and we don’t look like we’re getting much offense and consequently you try to be too fine. The count goes to 3-1 and your head starts to go in negative direction, so we try to avoid it as much as we can. We really try to tell our pitchers make your pitches and let the chips fall where they will. We’re going to start to support you offensively. That’s the only way we can go about it and hopefully we’ll start to see this thing turn a little bit.”

What happen with Scott Kazmir to fall off and be released at the age of 27?

“This is really…some of it was baffling. Some of it you could see little glimpses coming as we were…last season for a guy to fall so much from where he was just a year and half ago is mind boggling. This guy was throwing the ball well for us in 2009. He came up and pitched very well. We traded for him and he pitched very well in late August into September and the playoffs and stuff looked good, maybe he didn’t pitch as well as he could, but his stuff was really good. It just disappeared. We’re trying to find out…obviously for the last year we’ve been trying to find out what’s happening, trying to look into mechanics, he wasn’t injured. Unfortunately for us and Scott [Kazmir] it got to a point where not only was he not making progress every time he went out there. He was really struggling to just do anything that was going to help him compete even at a Triple A level. Definitely for his benefit and for ours also we need to move on. We hope he gets it back. He is 27. He is a young pitcher. It was just that his stuff is just not there at all.”

You’re a former catcher. Do you think there needs to be changes to the rules on home plate collisions after the incident with Buster Posey?

“No I think there are guidelines in place. I don’t think you really need to change any rules. If a runner goes out of his way when there’s no play to hit a catcher and throw was maybe…the catcher is giving him the plate to slide. Those are guidelines that baseball respects and I know that umpires respect and certainly the opposing team would take note. If there’s the fielder and catcher has the right to block the plate just like any fielder does and any base you can block if you have the ball in your possession and since it’s the last chance to stop a run and most catchers are going to do everything they can for their team. I think there is a technique maybe where you could put yourself at a little less risk, but as far as change the rules if you’re going to tell a runner he has to slide to the plate obviously you have to tell a catcher you can’t be in front of the plate. I think there are going to be plays that are going to happen where the throw takes you right into the runner and what do you do on that play? You really have to play baseball at some point. I think that’s what we have to get back to. It’s an unfortunate injury to an extraordinary young talent in this game, but it has happened before. I think Carlton Fisk was hurt at the plate when he was young. It happens to a lot of catchers and you just keep playing baseball, so I don’t think a rule change that I’ve heard…none of them make sense. I don’t think it’s warranted.”

Listen to Mike Scioscia on 1050 ESPN New York here

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