MINNEAPOLIS — White Sox manager Rick Renteria’s lineup constructions and affection for the bunt have become almost daily affronts to data-driven baseball thinkers.
Too bad, a rather fired-up Renteria said during a passionate pregame discussion about what goes into his decision-making. While he doesn’t discount what numbers suggest he should or shouldn’t do, Renteria is also going with with his instincts and what he knows from watching and communicating with his players every day.
“I don’t discount numbers. Never have, never will,” Renteria said. “But I’m a balance guy. I’m not going to appeal to the sabermetrician on a daily basis. Never will. Never want to. Not my intent. If they don’t like it, I don’t really give a s---.”
The steady, upbeat Renteria rarely uses language in public that requires a bleep. So the subject obviously touched a nerve.
“Most people want to go through just statistically based decisions,” he said. “OK, I’m not that guy. I trust myself and the things I do. I think there’s a balance.”
Renteria and his staff use data and numbers for writing out lineups, pitching matchups and shifting, to name a few, but Renteria also goes by what he knows about his players from experience and what his eyes tell him.
“I do things because I think it’s the right thing for me to do,” he said. “I know everybody has their opinion. Maybe it puts me on the outs. That’s fine. But I’m going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have.”
Renteria’s guys weren’t up to holding an early three-run lead against the first-place Twins on Tuesday, falling 14-4 after Tim Anderson doubled in a run and Jose Abreu hit his second homer in two nights, a two-run opposite field poke against right-hander Michael Pineda for a 3-0 lead in the third.
Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz homered against Reynaldo Lopez to tie it, and Abreu’s drop of catcher Welington Castillo’s throw in the fifth inning on what should have been the third out opened the door for a four-run Twins fifth. Had Castillo thrown to the field side of first, it would have been an easy play, Renteria said.
All of the runs in the fifth were unearned because of the Abreu error, but Lopez hit Jorge Polanco and gave up three consecutive hits after that, including a double off the wall by Cruz.
“What can I say? I missed a few pitches and that’s the reason why I couldn’t get out of that inning with no runs,” Lopez said. “Errors are part of the game.”
While credited with a quality start, it was the second rickety one in a row by Lopez (5.25) after he had started the second half with six consecutive good ones.
The Twins pounced on relievers Kelvin Herrera (five runs) and Hector Santiago (two) to blow the game wide open in the eighth.
Renteria has used 109 different lineups, one reason they’re a popular target. There’s rhyme and reason to them, Renteria said, especially for an offensively challenged team that’s in the development stages.
“I know my guys,” he said. “I know what they are capable of doing. It may not always work out. I can’t defend something I can’t quantify, because everybody wants history behind it. But you can’t develop history unless you allow an opportunity for an individual to be put in a particular situation for an extended period of time.”
On Tuesday, Anderson batted second against Twins right-hander Pineda — a spot Anderson bats usually against lefties — and he doubled and hit his 13th homer. Rookie Eloy Jimenez was elevated to fourth and went 0-for-4.
Wednesday’s series finale, the rubber game of the series, will feature another lineup, probably with Anderson second again.
“I do have conversations with the players,” Renteria said. “Timmy has been showing a lot better both against lefties and righties. He’s expressed that. He’s actually embracing the idea of possibly hitting second for us here.”