Ozzie Guillen doesn't care what other people think. Or he cares a lot what other people think, but then still makes the conscious decision to disregard them.
He already demonstrated a certain aloofness to his present situation on Tuesday by curiously opining for an extension during what could be his most disappointing season yet.
Wednesday, that aloofness took the dugout, and resulted in an over-managing spectacular where Guillen had used every player off his bench save for his backup catcher, and still finagled a way to put three of his four worst hitters up at the plate in the decisive 9th inning (two of which were pinch-hitters!)
Not every move was bad, but damn if they weren't all unique.
1. Alex Rios starting in centerfield over Alejandro De Aza
This one's simple! The Twins starter was left-handed, so he went with the opposite-handed hitter. There are some things Guillen glosses over, but shoving in an opposite-handed hitter whenever possible like he trained with electro-shock therapy isn't one of them.
However, it seems like Guillen's judgment could have been as simple as "Hey, Alex is right-handed!". Rios' platoon-splits are neutral for his career, so there's no reason to believe he'd be holding on to viability against lefties while all of his other skills are abandoning him. Lo and behold, he's got a .277 wOBA on the year vs. southpaws while De Aza has done nothing to show he's overwhelmed against same-handers in very limited time.
Quite simply, this is a fine reason to float in Rios for a game if he had been deservedly benched for the last week. But given that he's playing and struggling without break, this is a flimsy reason statistically to bury a hot hitter like De Aza.
Ozzie's needs to have the pen writing in Rios' name pried from his dead hands, so a lefty was a guarantee to continue the horror.
Now to the 9th inning, after Jake Peavy had 90 mph fastballs knocked all over the place to dig a 6-run hole, and when a bunch of crazy stuff happened.
2. Omar Vizquel pinch-hits for Gordon Beckham
This moved worked out, which doesn't mean it wasn't weird.
Gordon Beckham is a poor hitter wrapping up a terrible month, and was having a fairly bad game. He can't catch up to fastballs and Nathan was rushing it up at 95.
He was probably going to fail.
On the other hand, Omar Vizquel has had 4 above-average offensive seasons in his career, which is not good, seeing how absurdly long his career has been. Worse yet, his career is ending soon. 44 year-olds who never had great bat speed aren't known for their bat speed.
He was probably going to fail.
Yet Vizquel didn't. He walked, after fouling off several pitches he couldn't handle and waiting for Joe Nathan to do something foolish like not challenge him repeatedly with fastballs.
When I'm tired at work, sometimes I'll get a coke from the vending machines. They have them in slots C1-C4, and most days I just go with good ole c4. I don't why I settled on C4; they're all the same boring coke every time, but that's what I settled on. The last time I went thought, the coke I got from C4 was warm. So today, I went with C1, even though there was no reason to believe it had any effect on the temperature...just to change things up.
Maybe Ozzie just pushed light-hitting infielder button #11 this time, just to be different.
3. Pinch-hitting Adam Dunn for Brent Lillibridge
This one is simple too, Ozzie went with the opposite hand again, even if nothing about this season demanded it.
Lillibridge has pronounced platoon-splits, but has still been an above-average hitter versus right-handers. Moreover, he homered in his only appaearance vs. Nathan on the year. That's a virtually meaningless sample, but it hardly portends doom or a mismatch demanding a substitution.
Unless you're looking for a reason.
"I didn't like the matchup — Nathan against Lilly," Guillen said. "Dunn can go up there and hit the ball out of the ballpark or walk. Obviously, he struck out, but that's the matchup I liked the best."
Guillen said he'd look for a spot where Dunn could succeed, and apparently failed to realize that righties with decent fastballs hasn't been an opportunity for Dunn to succeed all season long. It was as creative aand inspired attempt to work Adam in as one could imagine, but it was forced into a scenario that certainly didn't call for it, reflecting of some need to work in the veterans above all else.
Even the prospective payoff seems overstated. Say Dunn walks into one, and his slow bat lifts out a walkoff HR. It'd be a hell of a moment for him, but so was the go-ahead 8th inning blast on July 4th, and so was the time he worked a full count on Verlander before taking him deep. He cannot be cheered out of this slump, if he can be rescued at all.
4. Pinch-running Zach Stewart for Paul Konerko
Well, this is just silly and fun.
"We need a pinch-runner for Konerko"
"Everyone's used except Lucy"
"Well, then use a pitcher"
"A pitcher? They could get hurt"
"Well pick one we don't care about then"
5. Alex Rios batting cleanup
This was also made at the start of the game, but slapping the inept Rios right in the middle of the rally every time through the order, just happened to kill the rally when he popped up in the 9th inning.
Alex Rios--despite very stiff competition--is the absolute worst hitter on the team. He had a .251 wOBA and a 48 wRC+ coming in. As J.J. points out, Guillen's perplexing dedication to him is paired with the unavoidable observation that he is, in fact, terrible.
Yet still, here come quotes like this:
"Right now Alex is the best option I have."
No, he's the very, very worst one at the most important run-producing spot in the lineup, and it was of no surprise to see him retired very, very easily to end the game.
Alex Rios has had a terrible 2011. He's more than a win under replacement-level, has played poor and uninspired outfield defense, and is without a single even superficially positive hitting statistic.
And yet, he's going to eclipse 550 plate appearances, get over 140 games played, and his new batting spot indicates that he might have just gotten a performance reward.
Maybe I give Ozzie too much credit, but I assume there's got to be a larger explanation for this coming at some point. He just can't be this poor at evaluation, and how can anyone be this obstinate?
It's shaping up to be a doozy.