Pitching to contact against Mikhail Gorbachev's beauty mark

Jason Miller

One of my favorite baseball terms is "pitch to contact". Why? Because whenever I'm short of ideas for something to write about, I can just Google "pitch to contact" and find something to mock.

This might be my last chance, though. Here's Tom Powers (via the Pioneer-Press):

The phrase "pitch to contact" has been deleted from the Twins' lexicon. It is gone forever.

Like Mikhail Gorbachev's birthmark in official Soviet Union portraits, it has been expunged. All traces have been removed and no one is allowed to speak of it. As far as anyone is concerned, the phrase, like the birthmark, has dissipated into thin air.

"I'm never saying it again," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "I've taken enough crap for it."

It's worth noticing that the Twins aren't expunging the "pitch to contact" ideology; just the phrase. Just like Gorbachev's birthmark, it's still there. Anderson just doesn't want to say "pitch to contact" any more because he doesn't want to hear it any more. As Grant Brisbee wrote upon the glorious news of the Kyle Davies signing, the Twins just keep on acquiring players who a) pitch, and b) are frequently contacted. Sure, Anderson claims that we all misunderstood ...

"It's about attacking the strike zone," Anderson explained. "It means don't go out and start picking and trying to be too fine. Then you'll wind up pitching behind in the count. And if you pitch behind in the count, you'll get your ass kicked. It's about trusting your stuff."

--snip--

The phrase apparently is supposed to mean "don't nibble." Instead, it came to symbolize everything wrong with the team over the past two seasons.

"Yeah, that's what people got out of it," Anderson agreed. "Me? I caught a lot of crap for it. But basically, if Alex Meyer is throwing 95 miles per hour -- attack! Don't pick. Even if you're throwing 83, just attack and pitch ahead in the count."

Well, sure. Nobody's going to argue with pitching ahead in the count. Especially if you're throwing 95. Attack!

What about the pitchers? What do they think "pitch to contact" means?

"The definition of pitch to contact? Man, I guess throwing quality strikes in the strike zone and trying to induce contact," closer Glen Perkins said. "Weakly. Pitch to weak contact."

Weak contact ...

"I think it's trying to get the right-handed hitters to ground out to short and the lefty hitters to ground out to second base," Perkins said. "If you get groundballs, that's OK contact."

So if we break it down, the phrase meant -- past tense because it's dead now -- to throw quality pitches in the contact zone. Don't nibble and don't try to be too cute.

"Watch (Kevin) Correia, he'll attack the zone with 88, 89 (mph pitches), but he knows what he's doing," Anderson said. "(Mike) Pelfrey might attack the zone with 91, 92."

Uh-oh. Kevin Correia's probably not a wonderful exemplar. Over the last three seasons, he's posted a 78 ERA+. In the National League. He might well know exactly what he's doing, but unfortunately what he's doing should be done in the International League.

There's another issue, which is that pitchers don't really have the ability to pitch to weak contact. Some pitchers do have the ability to induce groundballs, which is generally a good thing. But that's not what Rick Anderson has been talking about. He's been talking about contact. If he'd been talking about groundballs, nobody would have hassled him.

Now, to Kevin Correia's credit, last season he was something of a ground-ball pitcher. That wasn't enough to make him a good pitcher. But when you don't strike anybody out, you basically have to be a ground-ball pitcher with great control or you're going to get killed. So if Correia, under Anderson's tutelage, continues to induce plenty of groundballs and gets his ERA out of replacement-level range, I'll take everything back.

Still going to bet on Alex Meyer every time, though. Anderson's job would be a lot easier if the front office would get more pitchers who throw 95.

For everything else about the Minnesota Twins, please visit SB Nation's Twinkietown.

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