Defending the Twins Pitching Philosophy
by, 03-02-2012 at 09:49 AM (1144 Views)
With the Twins coming off one of their worst pitching seasons in over a decade, many fans and analysts are blaming the Twins’ “pitch to contact” philosophy. Critics cite career lows in strikeout rates for pitchers like Francisco Liriano and Matt Capps in 2011 as proof that there needs to be a new approach on the mound.
However, if we look back at the Twins’ recent history, we see that the “pitch to contact” strategy has actually played a large part in their success, particularly by producing quality pitching at a low price.
From 2001 to 2010, the Twins had the ninth lowest ERA in the MLB. Their pitching staff finished 19th in K/9, but first in BB/9 by a wide margin. While high-velocity, strikeout pitchers are in high demand -- and are therefore at a premium cost -- lower-velocity, command pitchers aren’t as sought after and are cheaper. It is these type of pitchers that the Twins have gotten over the past decade.
Over that span of 10 years, the Twins averaged $25.3 million in pitching payroll each year. The average payroll of the other nine teams in the top 10 of ERA over that same period of time was $38.1 million. Only the Oakland A’s paid less for their pitching. On average, the Twins spent almost $13 million less than other teams that had a similar ERA.
Team ERA Avg Yearly Payroll Atlanta Braves 3.89 $45,675,172 LA Dodgers 3.90 $45,690,133 Oakland A's 3.92 $18,193,173 St. Louis Cardinals 4.01 $39,221,293 SF Giants 4.03 $31,494,869 LA Angels 4.09 $39,345,550 Chicago Cubs 4.09 $43,747,343 New York Mets 4.10 $49,308,743 Minnesota Twins 4.16 $25,268,000 Houston Astros 4.16 $29,939,475
The Twins' ERA was helped by a 2.98 ERA from Johan Santana and a good bullpen over those years (see Patience with Bullpen is a Must), but the rest of the rotation had solid numbers and was filled with quintessential "pitch to contact" arms.
Pitchers like Brad Radke, Joe Mays, Kyle Lohse, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Carlos Silva, and Carl Pavano were not exactly Cy Young candidates, but they were good for an ERA between 4.00 and 4.50, which was worth two to four wins above replacement level each year. Outside of Baker, none of these pitchers are known for missing many bats, but they all have a career BB/9 below 3.00 with most of them falling under 2.50 BB/9 (MLB average from '01 to '10 was 3.33 BB/9).
The "pitch to contact" philosophy has been controversial among Twins fans and analysts in recent years, but pitching to contact clearly leads to fewer walks. And, as we learned from watching Moneyball, the more you walk, the more you can score.
The Twins pitching staff, by reducing its walks -- thanks to its pitching philosophy -- has been able to limit runs at a lower price than most of the league.
**Some edits have been made, so there may be some comments that no longer make sense**