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The Twins no longer tell their pitchers to “pitch to contact”

Feb 26, 2013, 4:35 PM EDT

Remember this gem from a couple of years ago?


Yeah, the Twins are out of that business now, it seems:

The phrase “pitch to contact” has been deleted from the Twins’ lexicon. It is gone forever … “I’m never saying it again,” Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. “I’ve taken enough crap for it.”

For his part, Anderson doesn’t think he was wrong to tell pitchers to pitch to contact. He simply thinks that everyone misunderstood him. Read the article to see if you buy his explanation.

In other news, Crash Davis is off someplace crying a little bit for the death of democracy.

  1. uyf1950 - Feb 26, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Now if they would only tell them “to pitch to win”.

  2. echech88 - Feb 26, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    What a silly, outdated concept. Everyone knows in 2013 you pitch to the score.

  3. schlemealsschlimazel - Feb 26, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Among the phrases still remaining in Rick Anderson’s repertoire:

    “Cripes, he hit the **** outta that one”
    “Hey Gardy, can you make this trip to to the mound for me, I think my ACL is about to tear from all the work”
    “I miss Carl Pohlad. He knew to keep my locker stocked with Jack Daniels.”

  4. dowhatifeellike - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Now, if only they would pitch to contract…

  5. unclemosesgreen - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    Poor Rick – it’s a noble sentiment, minus one qualifier – “weak” contact. Pitch to weak contact.

    Don’t take 120 pitches and 3 hours to get through the fifth inning – don’t nibble, don’t try to strike everyone out.

    In other words – don’t be Dice-K.

  6. ramrene - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    “I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it.” – Sandy Koufax

    Umm… cough…

    Hey Craig…

    It sounds like Sandy is saying he became a good pitcher when he stopped going for the strikeouts and started pitching to what???… say it again???… “Pitching to Contact” or in otherwords allowing contact to take place with the pitched to a tough spot.

    C’mon Craig, you’ve got to be able to start figuring this stuff out yourself. We, as readers can’t keep carrying you. You’re lack of the simplest understanding is starting to get heavy. We’re starting to have to see our chiropractors more and more because of you.

    Pull yourself together man!

    • paperlions - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:47 PM

      That is 100% not what he is saying. He is saying that he challenged hitters and threw strikes…changing his attitude/approach from “I hope they don’t hit this” to “I dare you to hit this”….in short, he went from nibbling to an aggressive approach.

    • jwbiii - Feb 26, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      Sandy Koufax became a good pitcher in 1961. In the six remaining years of his career, he the league in K rate five times and finished second the other season. If Koufax was trying to pitch to contact, he was really bad at it.

    • Kevin S. - Feb 26, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      You mean the same Sandy Koufax who lead baseball in K/9 in six of his final seven seasons?

    • kevinbnyc - Feb 27, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      1. Craig was quoting, moron.

      2. Sandy Koufax could pitch to whatever he wanted to; he was so good that he wasn’t going to get hit anyway. The Twins staff, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury.

  7. spudchukar - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    All right, I consider myself trolled. First Sandy Koufax was only an average pitcher with great potential until he learned to harness his stuff. Sure his stuff was arguably the greatest ever, so he is hardly the shining example of the pitch to contact sort, but nonetheless until he attacked the strikezone he was not very successful.

    The real crux of the argument isn’t the semantically challenged “pitch to contact”, but value of strike one. Perhaps a revolution in the sabermetric world is emerging, you know one that is based on performance, and not smothered by hypotheses.

    • paperlions - Feb 27, 2013 at 7:27 AM

      I agree spud. I think when they say “pitch to contact” they mean, be aggressive in the zone, throw strikes, and don’t be afraid of contact….not to let guys hit it….but rather, to take the at bat to the hitter and put him on the defensive.

      The problem with this for the Twins has been that they’ve traditionally drafted low upside pitchers who don’t have the stuff to live in the strike zone.

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 28, 2013 at 12:22 PM

        Spot on Paper. Kyle Lohse will also tell you his career was most likely saved when he starting working with Dave Duncan on “pitching to contact.” Specifically, he quit trying to throw it past hitters and started locating…in the strike zone.

  8. drewsylvania - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Nobody cares who said it. We care who implemented it and kept it going for years.

  9. weaselpuppy - Feb 26, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    I don’t care what philosophy their PC uses…the talent level of the Twins staff is horrific….this one is easy.




  10. jason1214 - Feb 26, 2013 at 6:51 PM

    Well, when you have 40% of your payroll tied up in Mauer & Morneau, cheap owners who (drumroll please)…lowered payroll just two seasons into a new stadium, you will suck.

  11. tracyhudsonateyourbaby - Feb 26, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    You know the worst part?

    It’s actually a pretty old tenet; Dave Duncan was the first to publicly coin the term back when he was working in Oakland. And former Oakland pitcher/current Washington Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty has also defined his strategy as “pitching to contact”.

    Now, “Pitching To Contact” as Duncan and McCatty have defined it is exactly the way that Rick Peterson did in the article referred to here, and the way that Sandy Koufax describes in another user’s post: It’s about attacking the strike zone, not trying to nibble away at the strike zone, and making the batters hit your pitch, as opposed to theirs.

    So I can see how Peterson was misunderstood here, most likely by a fanbase that needs to blame anyone they can for their team’s pitching woes.

  12. therealtrenches - Feb 26, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    The Koufax quote is spot on.

    It doesn’t mean throw it SO they can hit it.

    It means throw it where they think they can hit it.

    It means throw strikes.

  13. byjiminy - Feb 26, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    What Koufax said is irrelevant — how about reading the linked article and see what Anderson said? I’ll summarize: to him it just means, don’t try to nibble and get behind in the count.

    Fine. But actions speak louder than words.

    Last year, their starters had the worst ERA, and among the worst strikeout rates in the league. Yes the problem is more that they were bad than just their pitching philosophy. But what did the Twins do about it? They went out and hired two pitchers who were below average in the National League, Correia and Pelfrey — not based on results, obviously, because they suck, but because they liked the way they pitch.

    And how do they pitch? They both ranked among the lowest strikeout rates in the league.

    Was that a problem? No, they are the kind of pitchers Anderson wants his young pitchers to emulate. Here’s what Anderson said about them (this is a direct quote from the article linked above:

    “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.”

    The fact that the frequent strikes they threw were met with delight by batters did not keep the Twins from offering them more money than any other team would, and more than many pitchers who actually get people out. They attack the zone. They’re not afraid of contact, and neither are the Twins.

    Was their low K rate a hint that their lack of success was likely to continue, especially once they started facing the DH? It was to virtually every single person who commented on Twinkietown or Twins Daily. But the Twins love the way they pitch, shockingly low strikeout rate and all. Results be damned, at least they don’t nibble. To me, it looks like the pitch to contact philosophy is alive and well.

    This is a team that abhors the four-seam “rising” fastball, much preferring the two-seam sinker. They love pitchers like Nick Blackburn and Carlos Silva, who try to “keep the ball down” (whether it worked or not, at least their approach was correct), and they can’t stand pitchers like Scott Baker, Kyle Lohse, and Liriano, who try to strike people out instead of inducing grounders. Anderson constantly tried to change the way the pitch, to make them more like Blackburn and Silva.

    As Craig quoted above, they actively discouraged Liriano from trying to strike people out. Call it what you want, but they called it “pitching to contact” for a reason.

    Even last year, when they had two center fielders playing at once, running down fly balls in one of the toughest home run parks there is, and infielders who could fall over tying their shoes, they still wanted pitchers to try to induce ground balls instead of strike people out. Well, Baker and Liriano are gone, Pelfrey and Correia are in — and now Anderson says the Twins aren’t pitching to contact?

    And for years, their draft philosophy was to not gamble on high upside power pitchers, but to go for control pitchers who knew how to pitch. They used to do okay when pitchers like Radke, Silva and Pavano produced league-low walk rates and decent team ERA’s. But last year, they bottomed out. And in response they drafted a passel of power arms with dubious control, and traded for two more. Most people found that a very encouraging sign.

    But Anderson touting Pelfrey and Correia as guys the Twins sought out because they know how to pitch sends a mixed message.

    You know what I would love to see? Pelfrey and Correia come out and dominate the American League, proving the Twins’ front office right and everyone else wrong. I would love that. To find out that the Twins scouts can see things no one else sees, and predict success where no one else can, would make the future seem bright indeed.

    As Aaron Gleeman points out, their recent signings of Sidney Ponson, Ramon Ortiz, Livan Hernandez, and Jason Marquis don’t inspire much hope for Pelfrey and Correia. Most Twins fans expect to grit their teeth and wait it out till the young guns arrive. Until they Anderson can say whatever he wants, but actions speak louder than words.

    • Cris E - Feb 27, 2013 at 3:04 AM

      >>They went out and hired two pitchers who were below average in the National League, Correia and Pelfrey — not based on results, obviously, because they suck, but because they liked the way they pitch. <<

      You could say that, but it's really far more accurate to say that OF THE GUYS AVAILABLE they were a cost effective bridge to better guys. How much crap would Ryan have caught for spending $14m per year on Jackson or Santana to lead the staff on a 65 win team? He didn't spend the money on big free agents because the choices weren't great and the time wasn't right. God knows there's money to be spent, but on who?

      But you know who else they went out and got? They drafted hard throwers, and they traded for hard throwers with high K rates. You casually dismiss that, but that's the future they're banking on, and stiffs like Corriea are just here to soak up innings until the kids emerge. It's ridiculous to imply the Twins like late winter sweepings like Pelfrey more than Meyer and May, or that the mob of has-beens is anything more than a fist full of lottery tickets as they try to drag the staff ERA below 5.00.

      Anderson is just talking at spring training, saying how great everyone looks and how optimistic he is for the great progress they're expecting this season. It's high season for PR and ticket sales and he's talking up the team. Geez, relax on the Kremlinology

      • deepflakes - Feb 27, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        Right on — and while we are waiting for the younger guys – Worley, Diamond, Pelfrey, Correia, and either Gibson or Hendricks should be better than last year’s rotation. I don’t see how they couild be worse — hope springs eternal in Twins camp.

  14. zzalapski - Feb 27, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Reminds me of this BP piece on the prototypical Twins pitcher:

    “If everything breaks right, he’s Brad Radke. If a few things break right, he’s Rick Reed. If things just break, he’s Boof Bonser.”

  15. b453841l - Feb 27, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Pitching to contact isn’t a good strategy when your defense sucks. Has anyone ever watched Delmon try to play left field? RF, SS, and 2b weren’t much better.

    As is the state of the Twins now, no matter what strategy the pitchers employ it’s bound to fail as the big FA acquisition is 2 years of Kevin Correia 5mil/year–in the long run, subpar pitchers get subpar results no matter what the coaches tell them.

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