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What happens when Francisco Liriano “pitches to contact”

Apr 13, 2011, 2:50 PM EDT

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins, Game 1 Getty Images

Prior to this afternoon’s game Ron Gardenhire told reporters that he and pitching coach Rick Anderson have been trying to convince Francisco Liriano to “pitch to contact” rather than focusing on racking up strikeouts.

Liriano apparently listened, because this is what happened in the fourth inning:







Ground out


Caught stealing



Six runs on eight hits and maybe three of them were well-struck. Even the double was on a ground ball down the third base line. And he needed a strikeout just to escape the nightmare inning filled with bloopers falling in and grounders getting through.

There are certainly positive aspects of pitching to contact, including better control and going deeper in games, both of which Liriano could stand to improve upon. However, when a pitcher is coming off a season in which he racked up 201 strikeouts in 192 innings while posting a 3.62 ERA does it really make much sense to ask him to “pitch to contact”?

Beyond that, why should Liriano trust that the Twins’ sub par defense (which today includes Michael Cuddyer at second base) is up to the task of making him look good with a pitch-to-contract approach? Last season no defense in the league turned a lower percentage of balls in play into outs than the Twins did behind Liriano and they certainly didn’t do him any favors today.

To be clear, Liriano has not pitched well through three starts this season. He also isn’t getting much help.

  1. AK47 - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    All this hand-wringing by the Twins organization about the way Liriano pitches is confusing. The guy got decent results last year, why not just leave him be and let him pitch the way he wants?

  2. Jonny 5 - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    I’m sorry Aaron. Here this will help.

  3. sportsdrenched - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    Same thing that happend when Kyle Davies pitches…to any hitter.

  4. aburns77 - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    As much as I respect the Twins as an organization and their ability to cultivate talent I really don’t understand their drive to make all of their pitchers latter day Brade Radkes. Sure he was a decent pitcher but when you have stuff like Liriano why wouldn’t you be trying to strike guys out?

  5. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    So they want Liriano to be more like Scott Baker?

  6. Kevin S. - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    The Twins want Liriano to pitch like a bitch.

    • kopy - Apr 13, 2011 at 6:07 PM

      Slowey? Is that you??

      • Kevin S. - Apr 13, 2011 at 10:06 PM

        David Ortiz once referred to the Twins trying to get him to hit the other way instead of going for power as wanting him to hit like a little bitch.

    • Old Gator - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:03 PM

      Is Francisco Liriano a bitch?




      I said, is Francisco Liriano a bitch?

  7. thevandalen - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    I was watching on MLBTV, on your Twitter, and on my fantasy roster. Absolutely miserable.

    Aaron, how long of a fantasy leash should I give Liriano? I kept him for $4 in my keeper league (no-brainer) but he’s been miserable in his first 3 starts.

    • baseballstars - Apr 13, 2011 at 5:01 PM

      I have him on many of my teams. I expected big things from him. Needless to say, he’s been an utter disappointment. I’m going to hang on to him a bit longer, though. He still has the stuff to turn his season around, and he’s only three starts into the year. If you’re in a Roto league with an inning limits cap, you don’t want to drop a guy too soon who has the potential to rack up a lot of strikeouts and help in ERA/WHIP. That is, unless the Twins management keeps messing with him.

  8. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    This sucks so f@cking bad for my fantasy team. I hate the Twins.

  9. trevorb06 - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    What’s worse yet is that the Twins brought in Dusty Hughes to pitch relief. WTF?! Why not Capps or Baker? Hell Mijares is better than Hughes. It’d be one thing if we were out of this, but we’re only down by 2!

    • trevorb06 - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:42 PM

      And Hughes unravels, allows 2 guys to score and then intentionally walked Butler bringing up Frenchie. Wow, the Twins just lost one they were still in!

      • sportsdrenched - Apr 13, 2011 at 4:03 PM

        There’s a reason he’s not a Royal anymore. Did I just say that?

  10. visnovsky - Apr 13, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    I am truly concerned the Twins’ organizational philosophy with starting pitchers is going ruin Liriano or cause them to trade him for pennies on the dollar.

  11. xsturmin8 - Apr 13, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    It’s easy to try to shunt blame on Liriano to the coaching staff. The fact is that liriano has always pitched on a knife’s edge: “effectively wild”. Liriano showed that his command was nowhere near what it was last year this spring training and it hasn’t improved much this season either, regardless of whether the coaching staff wants him to pitch to contact or not if he can’t locate his pitches he won’t be effective.

    I’d rather see him at least try to occasionally catch the strike zone and give up some hits while he works on it than walk batters like crazy as in his first two starts. Don’t blame the organization because a player isn’t living up to your expectations; blame the player.

  12. sportsdrenched - Apr 13, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    What? No one had Kyle Davies on their fantasy team? He knows how to win!

  13. atribecalledtwolves - Apr 13, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    Yeah it is really easy to blame it on the coaching staff, but Liriano has been the one throwing the pitches. He will hopefully bounce back, but he has been streaky and inconsistent because if his lack of command. Also, Aaron you wrote during spring training that the Twins were not happy with his conditioning. If he isn’t in better shape, that can explain his first 3 poor starts.

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