In 2007, Matt Guerrier posted a 2.88 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in the first half. After the All Star break, those numbers inflated to 3.88 and 1.27. The second-half decline may have had something to do with the fact that Guerrier set a career high with 73 appearances, a figure that ranked him seventh in the American League.
In 2008, Matt Guerrier posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in the first half. After the All Star break, those numbers inflated to 8.88 and 2.09. The ugly second-half numbers included a September and October in which Guerrier went 0-5 with a 10.07 ERA as the Twins chased the White Sox for the AL Central lead. The late collapse may have had something to do with the fact that Guerrier set a new career high with 76 appearances, a figure that tied him for the league lead.
This year, Guerrier has looked sharp for the most part. He pitched an excellent inning to protect a relatively small lead against the Tigers on Tuesday night, and entered last night's game having allowed just 12 hits and three walks over 18 innings. Ron Gardenhire called on Guerrier for the third time in four days last night, and the results were brutal. The reliever coughed up a pair of home runs while recording just one out, and turned a lead into a deficit for the Twins. The appearance in last night's game puts Guerrier on pace to set a new career high with 81.
The evidence seems to pretty clearly indicate that Guerrier's struggles over the past couple years have been the result of overuse. And as much as I'd like to point an accusatory finger at Gardenhire, it's difficult to blame him in this instance. The unfortunate fact is that the ineffectiveness of the rest of the bullpen often leaves Gardenhire with no choice but to trot his top relievers out far more often than he'd like.
Tuesday night's game presents a great example of what I'm talking about. In that game, Gardenhire never should have needed to use Guerrier. Jesse Crain started the seventh and the plan was for him to complete one inning and hand the ball to Jose Mijares and Joe Nathan, who would take care of the eighth and ninth. Unfortunately, Crain couldn't get the job done, as he cut the Twins' lead down to three by surrendering a leadoff homer and then issued a walk before being pulled in favor of Mijares. That Gardenhire was forced to go to Mijares early left the eighth inning open and, with the game still relatively close, Gardy had little choice but to go to Guerrier. It was this type of situation that caused several relievers to get overworked last year. Crain, and others (LUIS AYALA), must step up and get outs.
Of course, if Gardenhire is looking for another right-handed reliever to take pressure off Guerrier and Crain, there's that Joe Nathan guy who has only accumulated 13 innings of work through the team's first 34 games...