Assuming tonight’s Game 2 of 162 between the Twins and
Brewers Orioles isn’t delayed or even postponed because there might be rain at some point or there might be a swarm of bees that attacks both dugouts or there might be an asteroid that destroys Camden Yards, the Twins are set to take some hacks against new Orioles pitcher Yovani Gallardo.
Gallardo, who enjoyed some good seasons with Milwaukee between 2007 and 2014 before having another solid season with Texas last year, has enjoyed pretty good success against the Twins over the years, posting a 3.14 ERA in eight starts.
If we stopped there, we might conclude that the Twins will have trouble scoring tonight, since their history indicates getting two runs in six innings against Gallardo is about the norm.
But that is precisely the kind of thing that bothers me about historical data: it leads to incorrect conclusions. Because the Twins of 2007-15 that Gallardo has faced, on the whole, barely resemble the Twins of 2016 he is going to face tonight.
The only real meaningful data — and we can quibble about how meaningful in a bit here — is how the current Twins lineup has fared against Gallardo. And in that case, you see the numbers tilt pretty heavily in Minnesota’s favor. Only three players more than a game’s worth of plate appearances — and all three have feasted.
Brian Dozier is 5 for 10 with a home run off Gallardo.
Joe Mauer is 7 for 14 with 4 walks off Gallardo for a .611 OBP.
Trevor Plouffe is 3 for 9 with two home runs off Gallardo.
As a whole, Twins batters expected to be in tonight’s lineup are hitting .356 against the Orioles pitcher. So we could reasonably predict them to knock Gallardo out early, right?
Well, maybe. But again, historical data is problematic. Mauer isn’t the same hitter he was when he accumulated many of those trips on base against Gallardo. Dozier and Plouffe figure to be similar hitters to what they have been in the past, but again: if one of Plouffe’s drives died on the warning track instead of clearing the fence, we’d think entirely differently about his history. Dozier, who was 3 for-3 in a 2014 game against Gallardo, might have caught him on what was simply a bad outing.
And Gallardo himself is a different pitcher than he used to be. In his younger days, he racked up four consecutive season of 200+ strikeouts while relying more on a curveball and four-seam fastball. In the last three season, he hasn’t topped 150 Ks at any point, while losing some velocity, mixing in more two-seam fastballs and sliders and getting more ground ball outs.
The past can give us some guidance toward the future, but it cannot account for the adjustments and changes of each individual along the way. But if you can’t accept that and need a narrative to cling to, you have stats to back you either way:
If Gallardo shuts down the Twins, point to his all-time numbers vs. Minnesota.
If Gallardo gets hit hard, particularly by the Twins’ established hitters, go with those head-to-head matchups to make your point.