Are Twins Taking "Pitching To Contact" Too Far?

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 06: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch in the second inning against the New York Yankees during game one of the ALDS on October 6 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Ron Gardenhire on Francisco Liriano (via Phil Mackey): "We understand that he can strike people out, but if he really wants to become a pitcher, pitch to contact ..."

A quote which led to (among others) this diatribe from IIATMS's Brien:

I will never, ever, understand people who buy this "pitch to contact" stuff. It just makes no sense at all from a mechanical standpoint. You're basically taking the approach of hoping that, rather than miss a pitch entirely, a hitter will make contact with the ball but avoid squaring it up and hitting it hard. Of course, how does this even work mechanically? Do you throw down the middle of the plate? Do you work around the edges? How exactly do you go about pitching so that the batter will neither square the ball up nor miss the pitch entirely?

I'm a big fan of the strikeout, and I'm not a big fan of instructing pitchers to pitch to contact. Particularly pitchers like Francisco Liriano, who has demonstrated real strikeout ability.

All that said, I'm reluctant to criticize the Twins' pitching philosophy, because it seems to have served them so well.

Since Johan Santana left after the 2007 season, the Twins have finished 10th in the American League in strikeouts in three straight seasons ... and in those same three seasons, they've ranked first in walks. That is, they've allowed fewer walks than anybody else in every season. I'm not sure if they're actually pitching to contact, or perhaps pitching to avoid walks.

In those same three seasons, the Twins have ranked seventh, 11th, and fifth in the league in ERA. This is not particularly impressive, except most of those pitchers were relatively cheap.

Would the Twins pitch better if the coaching staff encouraged more strikeouts? I don't know. I do believe that if you've got pitchers who can't get strikeouts without a lot of walks and high pitch counts, maybe they should be doing something else. I also believe if you've got a pitcher like Francisco Liriano who's capable of striking out 200 hitters while walking only 60, you stay the hell out of the way and watch him win.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.