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Thread: White Sox: Pitch to Contact

  1. #21
    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Since '06 the Twins have the lowest walk rate in baseball, and its not particularly close. By your logic, that should help to place them among the elite. Instead they are 19th in ERA. Why? Becuase they hold the 3rd worst contact rate and the 5th worst strikeout rate.

    Low walks and high strikeouts aren't mutually exclusive. that is a strawman

  2. #22
    Owner MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
    Since '06 the Twins have the lowest walk rate in baseball, and its not particularly close. By your logic, that should help to place them among the elite. Instead they are 19th in ERA. Why? Becuase they hold the 3rd worst contact rate and the 5th worst strikeout rate.

    Low walks and high strikeouts aren't mutually exclusive. that is a strawman
    You read my last sentence, right?

    The Twins spent a decade near the top of the list in walks issued and coincidentally, they had some pretty decent pitching staffs during that time. I don't think that's entirely a coincidence but it's not the entire story, either.
    Or this entire paragraph?

    "Pitch to contact" is a fine philosophy. The Twins rode it for years, taking marginal guys and getting decent production from them by avoiding walks and letting the defense make outs. On the other hand, when it was working, the Twins also had several pitchers with real talent (Radke, Santana, Baker) who missed a few bats as well. Remove that pitching talent and no matter how much you either tell a guy to "miss bats" or "let the defense play", it doesn't matter. Your pitching staff is going to be bad because your pitchers are bad.
    Pitch to contact is a good way of taking a guy with marginal talent and maximizing his usefulness by eliminating unnecessary baserunners (walks) and expecting your defense to make outs on ~70% of the balls hit to them. It doesn't mean that those pitchers will suddenly turn into Cy-freakin-Young, it means you'll occasionally get an 08-09 Nick Blackburn out of lackluster talent. Those pitchers are incredibly useful at the back of a rotation. On the other hand, if you don't have truly talented pitchers up front to support those lesser pitchers, your rotation is going to suck no matter how many strikes you throw.

  3. #23
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    Pitchers that can't miss bats + below average defense= Disaster (2011, 2012 Twins)

  4. #24
    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Liriano wasn't a marginal talent, he has swing and miss stuff. why did they tell him to pitch to contact? Was Andy trying to get an 08-09 Nick Blackburn out of him?

  5. #25
    Owner MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
    Liriano wasn't a marginal talent, he has swing and miss stuff. why did they tell him to pitch to contact? Was Andy trying to get an 08-09 Nick Blackburn out of him?
    No, he was trying to get more than 4-5 innings per start out of the guy with an ERA+ higher than 80. Liriano's best season was 2010, a season where he walked 7.2% of the batters he faced compared to 12.7/13.0% in 2011/2012. In 2010, Liriano threw 64% of his pitches for strikes. In 2011/2012, he threw 57/59% of his pitches for strikes.

    Liriano has swing and miss stuff. Swing and miss stuff only works if the batter actually swings at the pitches thrown. Liriano's success revolved around his ability to locate his fastball and set up the slider for a swing and miss. If he's not locating his fastball and guys are sitting on the pitch, it all goes to hell because nobody can consistently get a good slider over the plate. The very point of the pitch is to bait people into thinking it's a fastball and swinging as the pitch drops out of the zone. Unsurprisingly, his Zone% (number of pitches thrown in the strike zone) tells a similar story, going from 48% in 2010 and dropping to 43.5/42.3% in 2011/2012.

    As an aside, it should be noted that much of Liriano's success revolves around him throwing harder, which he did in 2010 and has done in 2012, though he's struggling again in 2012 because he's throwing too many balls, which batters lay off and end up taking the walk instead of inducing weak contact or striking out. Whether you call it "pitch to contact", "pound the zone", or whatever you like, it's a simple philosophy in baseball and few pitchers are truly elite without that trait.

  6. #26
    Twins News Team All-Star TheLeviathan's Avatar
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    You are letting the slogan drive your argument rather than the principle of it Willihammer. "Pitch to contact" is nothing more than the team's way of telling pitchers that they shouldn't be afraid of batter contact if the reverse means falling behind. Better to get ahead and get hit earlier in the count than get behind in the count. You see exactly that in Cooper's response too - he doesn't like that Liriano is trying so hard to be cute and avoid contact that he is pitching constantly from behind. No ace pitches like that and its one of many reasons why Liriano is not an ace.

  7. #27
    The King In The North All-Star Nick Nelson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
    Liriano wasn't a marginal talent, he has swing and miss stuff. why did they tell him to pitch to contact? Was Andy trying to get an 08-09 Nick Blackburn out of him?
    You need to understand the timelines here. The Twins started pressing Liriano about pitching to contact AFTER he showed up to camp in 2011 out of shape and unable to throw strikes. It's not like they were pestering him throughout the 2010 season to change his approach. They might have mentioned something during the offseason about wanting him to pitch more efficiently and last deeper into games, but I hardly think that's worth criticizing.

    And the funniest thing about all of this is that IF Liriano had been able to heed the Twins' advice last year he probably would have had a fine season. He allowed the lowest BABIP and line drive rate of his career, and was basically fine when the threw the ball where batters could hit it. Liriano did the exact opposite of what the Twins asked and had a horrendous season because of it. How can people ignore this??

  8. #28
    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    BABIP scales inversely with velocity and k-rate, and gb rates scales positively with velocity. HR/FB rate scales inversely too.

    You can't assume the BABIP stays constant while the approach changes to pitch to contact.

  9. #29
    Twins Moderator MVP ashburyjohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
    "Pitch to contact" is nothing more than the team's way of telling pitchers that they shouldn't be afraid of batter contact if the reverse means falling behind.
    Sometimes you'll hear of a pitcher that he "never gives in to the batter", which I take to mean that the guy would rather throw a quality pitch on 3-1 even at the risk of walking the batter rather than lay it in for a high chance of a double or worse; extrapolating, he might also be less likely to throw a strike on 2-1, and even on 1-1 he's not afraid to let the count go to 2-1 in order to make his pitch. Is that on the same spectrum, at the other end, from PTC?

    (Steve Carlton is the guy I think I heard this said of first.)

  10. #30
    Owner MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
    "Pitch to contact" is nothing more than the team's way of telling pitchers that they shouldn't be afraid of batter contact if the reverse means falling behind.
    Sometimes you'll hear of a pitcher that he "never gives in to the batter", which I take to mean that the guy would rather throw a quality pitch on 3-1 even at the risk of walking the batter rather than lay it in for a high chance of a double or worse; extrapolating, he might also be less likely to throw a strike on 2-1, and even on 1-1 he's not afraid to let the count go to 2-1 in order to make his pitch. Is that on the same spectrum, at the other end, from PTC?

    (Steve Carlton is the guy I think I heard this said of first.)
    Yes and no. I view PTC as something that happens early in the count more than later. The point isn't to avoid all walks, it's to avoid pitching behind in the count to most of your batters. Give them something to hit. If they hit it, don't worry, just try again with the next guy. If they miss, great, you're now up on the batter 0-1 or 1-2. To me, the purpose of PTC is to make the batter beat you and your defense early in the count instead of issuing free passes or getting behind guys too often, running up your pitch count. It's not about lobbing it over the middle of the plate and crossing your fingers, it's about using your first 1-2 pitches to get ahead of the batter so that you can set him up with your breaking ball or off speed stuff to keep the batter off balance.

    Anyway, that's how I've always viewed it. I think "Pitch to Contact" is being read too literally by some posters on this forum. John and I were talking about it at lunch today and he mentioned that it should be referred to as "Challenging the Hitter" or something like that. It's not about putting every ball into play, it's about getting ahead of batters and making them beat you early in the count instead of having to serve up a meatball in a 3-2 or 3-1 count.

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
    Liriano wasn't a marginal talent, he has swing and miss stuff. why did they tell him to pitch to contact? Was Andy trying to get an 08-09 Nick Blackburn out of him?
    Liriano is a mediocre talent that has shown the occasional stretches of being very good. And for those stretches he has been and will continue to be well compensated. He was maddening to watch and I cannot blame the Twins for finally parting ways. Yes, when the opposing teams were not patient or he was on one of those rare stretches where he was "pitching to contact" early in the count, he could finish guys off.

  12. #32
    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
    Liriano's best season was 2010, a season where he walked 7.2% of the batters he faced compared to 12.7/13.0% in 2011/2012. In 2010, Liriano threw 64% of his pitches for strikes. In 2011/2012, he threw 57/59% of his pitches for strikes.

    Liriano has swing and miss stuff. Swing and miss stuff only works if the batter actually swings at the pitches thrown. Liriano's success revolved around his ability to locate his fastball and set up the slider for a swing and miss. If he's not locating his fastball and guys are sitting on the pitch, it all goes to hell because nobody can consistently get a good slider over the plate. The very point of the pitch is to bait people into thinking it's a fastball and swinging as the pitch drops out of the zone. Unsurprisingly, his Zone% (number of pitches thrown in the strike zone) tells a similar story, going from 48% in 2010 and dropping to 43.5/42.3% in 2011/2012.

    As an aside, it should be noted that much of Liriano's success revolves around him throwing harder, which he did in 2010 and has done in 2012, though he's struggling again in 2012 because he's throwing too many balls, which batters lay off and end up taking the walk instead of inducing weak contact or striking out. Whether you call it "pitch to contact", "pound the zone", or whatever you like, it's a simple philosophy in baseball and few pitchers are truly elite without that trait.
    Strikes are good, esp. early in the count, and walks are bad. I and the rest of the baseball world agree. Contact is good, that is where I disagree with PTC. The Twins, the poster child for the PTC theory, lead baseball in contact. I am not so quick to assume this is 100% the result of below average talent, and not a philosophy that has been employed for years. Indeed, 3 of the top 10 SP's in contact rate, going back to 2002 (min 400 IP) are or were notable Twins Blackburn, Slowey, and Silva. These are "organizational" guys.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
    No, he was trying to get more than 4-5 innings per start out of the guy
    I'm curious if you or anyone has evidence that contact reduces pitch count? According to the previous table (small sample), Twins were 1st for two years running in P/IP, yet only middle of the pack in P/IP (while allowing the greatest number of bases).

    A strikeout averages 4.8 pitches, with a standard deviation of only .15. Compare to the Twins league leading 3.73 p/PA over the last 2 years, adjust for a BABIP of .303 (3rd worst), and you have on average, 4.87 pitches required to get the first out via contact only. Factor in double plays, and you're talking roughly 4.5-4.6 pitches per out. Clearly the savings in pitches and increase in innings pitched, if there is a correlation at all there (there is evidence that the correlation is actually an inverse one: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/201...ing-to-contact) - clearly it doesn't outweigh the bases and runs you will give up in the process.

    So instead of preaching PTC, blaming guys who struggle to throw strikes on their lack of appreciation of the PTC approach, the Twins might be better served focusing on the mechanical issues like, in Liriano's case, his balance. To get them to throw strikes, and get ahead, but with the aim at putting guys away via strikeout.

  13. #33
    Twins Moderator MVP ashburyjohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
    I view PTC as something that happens early in the count more than later. The point isn't to avoid all walks, it's to avoid pitching behind in the count to most of your batters. Give them something to hit. If they hit it, don't worry, just try again with the next guy.
    That implies to me a great reluctance to throw your best pitch with a lot of movement, on 0-0, or whenever behind in the count. If you're known as a PTC pitcher, doesn't that give the batter some advantage in reducing the possibilities of what's coming? (Conversely, there's something to be said for saving that breaking ball in the dirt for your strikeout pitch, with 2 strikes but less than a full count.)

    Also, assuming it's really true that Joe Mauer takes a lot more first-pitches than the average batter, doesn't that mean Joe expects most pitchers not to be PTC believers?

    Finally, I wonder what a pitcher like Samuel Deduno would do when embracing PTC. If your only non-crazy pitch is a meatball down the middle, what do you do on 0-0?

  14. #34
    Owner MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
    If your only non-crazy pitch is a meatball down the middle, what do you do on 0-0?
    Pitch for the Durham Bulls.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post

    Also, assuming it's really true that Joe Mauer takes a lot more first-pitches than the average batter, doesn't that mean Joe expects most pitchers not to be PTC believers?
    I'm curious how you make that connection. And to avoid any accusations of snippiness, I really just don't think I get where you went with that, I'm not implying it's dumb or wrong or anything.

  16. #36
    Owner MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
    Also, assuming it's really true that Joe Mauer takes a lot more first-pitches than the average batter, doesn't that mean Joe expects most pitchers not to be PTC believers?
    No, I think it means that Joe wants to see what a pitcher has in his arsenal before deciding to swing. Nothing wrong with that. Guys take different approaches to get to the same point. Some are Vlad or Kirby, others are Mauer or Williams.

  17. #37
    Owner MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
    I'm curious if you or anyone has evidence that contact reduces pitch count? According to the previous table (small sample), Twins were 1st for two years running in P/IP, yet only middle of the pack in P/IP (while allowing the greatest number of bases).

    A strikeout averages 4.8 pitches, with a standard deviation of only .15. Compare to the Twins league leading 3.73 p/PA over the last 2 years, adjust for a BABIP of .303 (3rd worst), and you have on average, 4.87 pitches required to get the first out via contact only. Factor in double plays, and you're talking roughly 4.5-4.6 pitches per out. Clearly the savings in pitches and increase in innings pitched, if there is a correlation at all there (there is evidence that the correlation is actually an inverse one: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/201...ing-to-contact) - clearly it doesn't outweigh the bases and runs you will give up in the process.

    So instead of preaching PTC, blaming guys who struggle to throw strikes on their lack of appreciation of the PTC approach, the Twins might be better served focusing on the mechanical issues like, in Liriano's case, his balance. To get them to throw strikes, and get ahead, but with the aim at putting guys away via strikeout.
    An interesting analysis but it's a little disingenuous to compare the Twins' past two years to the league average. The Twins' staffs in 2011/2012 have been downright awful. Everyone knows that. No matter what you preach to your staff, if they have no talent they will have very limited success.

    The Twins weren't harping on Liriano when he was throwing strikes in 2010. They may have asked him to get a few more pitches over the plate in hopes that he'd be a 7-8 inning pitcher instead of a 5-6 inning pitcher but almost any team would ask that from the guy. Finding ways to build on success is natural.

    On the other hand, we only heard about the team preaching PTC to Francisco after he turned into an awful pitcher that couldn't throw strikes and was walking 80% more batters and throwing 5% less strikes (and therefore, 5% more balls). While you say they should have worked on his mechanics, do we have any kind of assurance that they didn't do just that? I think you're getting hung up on the terminology here, not factoring in what the team was actually trying to say and instead of paying so much attention to the word "contact". They were trying to get Liriano to throw more strikes, which makes him a better pitcher because his slider is more lethal with a located fastball preceding it. The Twins weren't trying to get him to stop striking guys out. Strikeouts happen naturally if you get the ball over the plate and have good movement on your pitches.

    It should also be noted that in the course of his career, Scott Baker has gradually increased his K/9 with the Twins (and posted a 8.2 k/9 to Liriano's 7.5 just last season). The team hasn't done anything to stop this progression. Why? Because Scott has never had issues with his command and therefore, there was nothing to be concerned about. This team isn't against strikeouts, it's against guys who don't throw strikes.

  18. #38
    The King In The North All-Star Nick Nelson's Avatar
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    I am not so quick to assume this is 100% the result of below average talent, and not a philosophy that has been employed for years. Indeed, 3 of the top 10 SP's in contact rate, going back to 2002 (min 400 IP) are or were notable Twins Blackburn, Slowey, and Silva. These are "organizational" guys.
    Lord knows that if the Twins weren't telling them not to, Blackburn, Silva and Slowey would have all been racking up the strikeouts with that swing-and-miss stuff.

    You can't actually believe this, can you?

    Look, coaches and players, when asked about this, have explained the philosophy in detail. Are you so blinded by the word "contact" in the phrase that you simply refuse to believe them?

    "I'm not out there gunning for strikeouts," Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter told a St. Louis reporter, echoing Blackburn. "I'm out there attacking. I have the confidence in my stuff and in what I'm trying to do that I want them to swing. I'm trying to make them swing.''

    "It's nothing more than trying to pitch in the strike zone, and then when the guy does make contact, hope it doesn't go too far," Blyleven said. "Everyone is basically saying the same thing: don't try to be too fine, pitch to contact, trust your stuff, stay in the zone."
    "I don't tell my guys to 'pitch to contact,' " Anderson said. "We say, 'Blackie, attack the strike zone in the lower half. And we tell our guys to get outs on two or three pitches, instead of trying to throw five, six, seven pitches. We've always been good at throwing the ball over the plate.''
    "All of a sudden, the average fan says that's a bad philosophy," Anderson said. "They want strikeouts. Well, guys like Blackburn and Pavano, that's not who they are."

  19. #39
    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Yes, contact is the operative word. As Anderson says above, if you are aiming for an out in the first 2 pitches, then you are trying to have your pitches hit. As opposed to throwing additional pitches with the aim to get a strikeout and take BABIP and luck out of the equation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
    Lord knows that if the Twins weren't telling them not to, Blackburn, Silva and Slowey would have all been racking up the strikeouts with that swing-and-miss stuff.

    You can't actually believe this, can you?
    Look at Silva's career. His three lowest k-rates are as a Twin.

    Its impossible to say what the strikeout ceiling is for our guys unless they are allowed to aim for them instead of aiming for contact.

  20. #40
    Twins Moderator MVP Riverbrian's Avatar
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    Pitching to Contact and Striking out hitters has nothing to do with each other. It's all about Pitch Counts. Keeping your starters in the game longer by reducing the number of pitches thrown if possible. Keeping your defense behind you awake. Keeping the game moving along. If you reduce the number of pitches... You cut down on the free passes naturally and your defense won't drift away on you. .

    Pitching to contact does not mean... Here you go... Have a cookie.

    It's a negative term in these parts recently because our pitching hasn't been very good.

    All Managers want the team back in the dugout ready to hit as quickly as possible.

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