In the age of TMI (too much information), did the Twins pay TLA (too little attention) in pitting Matt Guerrier against Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded?
NEW YORK -We live in the era of too much information. Baseball, in particular, has been deluged with decimal points and acronyms to the point where half of the conversations about the game sound like dialogue from a science fiction movie about droids and time travel and Einstein's cryogenically-preserved frontal lobe.
If a big-league baseball team set fire to all of the scouting reports and stat sheets it received before every game, the result would make your average California wildfire look like the smoldering ashes in the bottom of a Weber grill.
Which raises the most important question about the Twins' latest come-from-ahead loss at Yankee Stadium:
In the age of TMI (too much information), did the Twins pay TLA (too little attention)?
The Twins' 8-4 loss to the Yankees, their 12th straight loss in the Bronx, hinged on Twins manager Ron Gardenhire choosing to match Matt Guerrier against Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, with the Twins leading 4-3.
If you had no access to statistics, the move seems logical. Guerrier is the Twins' best reliever, a righthander possessing guts and guile, and Rodriguez is the Yankees' best righthanded hitter. Guerrier's job description demands that he retire guys like A-Rod.
If you had access to statistics -- and Gardenhire admitted he was fully aware of the numbers -- matching Guerrier against Rodriguez is the baseball equivalent of jumping off the Golden Gate bridge and hoping you miss the water.
Scott Baker started the inning and gave up an infield single before Derek Jeter hit a shot off Baker's knee for a double. Gardenhire removed Baker and brought in lefty Brian Duensing, who induced a harmless flyout from Brett Gardner.
Gardenhire ordered Duensing to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira, then summoned Guerrier to face Rodriguez.
There were two statistical warnings against doing so:
• Rodriguez, in his career, was 4-for-6 with three homers, a double and a walk against Guerrier. It's hard to hit that well in batting practice or tee ball, much less against a quality big-league reliever.
• According to Stats Inc., Rodriguez was 3-for-3 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, a home run and 10 RBI in five plate appearances after Teixeira was intentionally walked ahead of him.
Second-guessing riles big-league managers, but there was a lot of first-guessing going on in the Yankee Stadium press box on Friday night. A handful of writers had looked up Guerrier's career statistics against Rodriguez, and all had asked the same question: This isn't happening, right?
One of the Twins' primary flaws is their lack of bullpen depth, so Gardenhire didn't have many attractive options. The best alternative to bringing in Guerrier to face Rodriguez was letting Duensing face Teixeira. Had Duensing gotten Teixeira out, he could have intentionally walked Rodriguez, then faced lefty Robinson Cano.
Given the Twins' record under Gardenhire in the Bronx (3-24 in the regular season, 5-28 overall), Duensing may have allowed a grand slam, too. All we know for sure, after Guerrier threw a pitch down the middle and Rodriguez hit a majestic shot over the left field fence, is that Rodriguez's career statistics against Guerrier are now: 5-for-7 with four homers, a double, and a walk.
"We're always aware of numbers,'' Gardenhire said. "But Matty is our best righthanded reliever out there, our setup guy, who we had up in that situation, and sometimes you can't do anything about the numbers.
"Matty's got to come in there, the bases are loaded, you've got a righthander up there and he's got to make the pitch. He didn't make the pitch this time. We have all the confidence in the world in Matty. Numbers aren't everything.''
Rodriguez's stats scream for attention, though. The man has 587 career homers, and further research into baseball's endless supply of numbers reveals that a few of those were hit against someone other than Matt Guerrier.
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org