Small ball continues to loom large for Angels

Small ball continues to loom large for Angels

ANAHEIM -- Since taking the reins as the Angels' manager in November 1999, Mike Scioscia has regularly employed a traditional National League style of play. Bunting, stealing bases, the hit-and-run -- "small ball," in the popular vernacular.

They've done it well, too -- his clubs have ranked in the top half of the American League in sacrifice hits and stolen bases in all but three of Scioscia's 11 full seasons in Anaheim.

And now, with an altered lineup in search of an identity, the execution of that philosophy is even more crucial. The Angels own the AL's third-worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.230), have grounded into the Majors' fourth-most double plays (49), and average 44.5 at-bats for every home run.

"Our lineup has not established the depth to just line 'em up and let them play," Scioscia said. "We need to really focus on the situational hitting. If it's moving a runner, and if it's putting a ball in play on the ground when a guy's in motion, that situational hitting's important to us and hopefully we'll get better at it."

Scioscia said his team has shown the ability to run-and-hit well, but the hit-and-run? Not so much.

"As far as the hit-and-run ... we've been awful," he said. "And we have to be better at that. We're swinging through pitches, hitting balls in the air."

With speed demons such as Erick Aybar (12 stolen bases) and Peter Bourjos (five), and a crafty veteran like Bobby Abreu, who has already swiped eight bags, Scioscia won't waver from his philosophy. The Angels are suffering from a severe power outage, and need to parlay their athleticism into offensive production.

"Our team speed is something that we're going to continue to push," Scioscia said. "With our lineup not being as deep, you have to try to create some other avenues to adjust what's happening in the batter's box, and that's what we're going to continue to do."