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Zulgad: Is MLB really making return about dollars and cents?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:48 AM
https://www.skornort...lars-and-cents/   The owners have made their proposal to the players. The players association will now have t...
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WP article about 1924 World Series win by pre-Twins

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:20 AM
Saw this lovely article today by one of the country's best sports writers. It sounds like 1924 rivaled 1991 for excitement!   https:...
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Cosmetic Changes at TF

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:05 AM
I went down to Target Field with the family this weekend (got some Glam Doll donuts and played on the grass by the LRT station for my bir...
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Rent the Blue Wahoos' stadium for whiffle ball and ov...

Twins Minor League Talk 24 May 2020
Kind of unbelievable, but I guess they might as well make money somehow now that baseball is shut down.   https://www.washingt...all...
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Information on Owner's proposal to Player's Union...

Minnesota Twins Talk 24 May 2020
Chuck Garifen of NBC Sports Chicago: https://twitter.com/...3584651264?s=20
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Recent Blogs


In Memory: A Previous Era of Twins Pitching

In the beginning of the 21st century, the Twins valued different styles of pitchers than they do today. Velocity was an afterthought, and at times I wondered if they avoided it. Strikeouts were overrated, get that ball on the ground. Despite the inconsistency this volatile philosophy caused, some pitchers still hold a special place in Twins fans' hearts. That’s why I wanted to take a trip down memory lane and rank my top 3 pitchers from the previous era of Twins baseball.
Image courtesy of © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sportstwinsd
3. Joe Mays
Joe Mays was classic early 2000s Twins. He actually debuted in 1999 and put up 1.5 and 1.9 fWAR seasons respectively in his first two years, right around a 2019 Martin Perez season in terms of value. It was 2001 however that everything went right for Mays. He rode a 3.16 ERA and 4.27 FIP through over 230 innings and put up 3.1 fWAR. In his lone All-Star season, Mays had a career low BABIP of .243 and struck out an outrageous 12.9% of hitters. For reference, Jose Berrios has struck out 23.1% of hitters he’s faced in his career.

Mays was rewarded with a 4-year $20 million contract with the Twins, a much more lucrative deal in those days. Unfortunately, Mays pitched three more seasons with the Twins and was worth -.2 fWAR. He never recaptured that season where the ball seemed to find his fielders' gloves consistently.

2. Scott Diamond
Scott Diamond was one of my favorite Twins pitchers of this era for a number of reasons. Who doesn’t love a big leaguer that wasn’t even officially drafted? He found his way to the Twins by way of the Rule 5 draft, where stories of even moderate success are rare. He was a bit unlucky in his debut season of 2011 with a 5.08 ERA and 4.36 FIP in 39 innings. In his second season however, Diamond managed a 3.54 ERA and 3.94 FIP. He walked less than 5% of his batters faced while spinning grounders at a 53.4% clip. He was worth 2.4 fWAR in 2012, which was more than the rest of his career.

Diamond also flamed out after his career year. Much like Mays, the groundballs just stopped going his way, and his career 10.9 K% just couldn’t keep him afloat.

1. Nick Blackburn
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Nick Blackburn, I think of Pirahna Baseball. Blackburn’s success actually matched up with some classic early 2000s Twins teams in 2008 and 2009. In those seasons he succeeded with an 87 mph fastball and a groundball rate of around 45%. He fit the mold of not walking or striking anybody out (5.7% and 10.8% respectively for his career) and was the exact style of pitcher the Twins front office loved during that era.

Blackburn at least managed to string two successful season together and they came in seasons where the Twins were competitive, with 2009 being the classic “Game 163 Season”. Unfortunately just like Diamond and Mays, Blackburn’s success had an expiration date. He pitched three more seasons and was worth -.4 fWAR, and I still remember the sadness of going to games and seeing Nick Blackburn banners in 2012 as he limped to a 7.39 ERA.

These pitchers are proof of how far the Twins organization has come. This strategy clearly wasn’t ideal for the long haul as we see with Mays', Diamond's and Blackburn’s careers. That being said, the previous era is full of forgotten pitchers that were tons of fun despite having no chance of making the current Twins roster. Which ones were your favorites?

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15 Comments

remember the Slow Black Bake? 
Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker? 

fun for the fans in the outfield seats! 

    • nclahammer likes this

I remember Scott Diamond had a very cool autograph.

 

I can be of two minds about this. It's laudable for any front office to locate Diamonds in the rough (pun intended) and develop them into productive major league assets; and of course on a human level you want to root for players who defy the odds. It's not laudable when that is too often the biggest accomplishment of the FO. These guys highlighted in the article would have been just dandy as third or fourth guys in a rotation featuring a couple of real studs.

 

Who else comes to mind? Carlos Silva was probably the poster-boy for succeeding without a strikeout pitch, and he put together a couple of above-average seasons for us.

 

But you actually asked who else were [my] favorites. I have to say, none. I didn't like having to root for that kind of pitching staff, to be honest.

    • glunn and Wizard11 like this
Blackburn wasn't really a soft soft tosser. He averaged over 90 mph pretty much every season of his career. He'd sit low 90s and hit 94 with the rarely used 4 seamer.
I dont think the Twins avoided hard throwing strikeout pitchers back then as they had guys like Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano, however, I think guys like that were hard to come by. They still are. So they filled their staff with ground ball guys and they weren't terrible. How many division titles did they win back in those days? They just needed one or two studs leading the way and then those average to just below average guys were ok in the 3 4 and 5 spots. So when they had from 2003 - 2006 Johan Santana and Brad Radke at the front of the rotation, (and Radke was a pitch to contact guy but he was obviously better than those other guys as he could repeat his success year after year.) Nonetheless with those two at the front the guys who came in behind them just had to hold the ship afloat. Then after Radke was gone they had Santana and Liriano for a year or two also. So I think if the Twins could have afforded it they would have loved to have 3 or 4 Santana types. Just wasn't going to happen and so they went the pitch for the ground ball route so that they could at least put a staff out there. I feel as though they were working within their constraints. Now they have never done a great job of drafting pitching, for whatever reason, but I still remember flops like Willie Banks
    • glunn, DocBauer and Nine of twelve like this

It is really hard to compare eras.In the past only a few - Feller, Ryan, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson...were potential triple digit guys and now - we are seeing all kinds of relief and starters, minor and major leaguers hitting triples.Why?Training, techniques, good food.It was not bad to control the batter with other techniques - see Spahn and Maddox for great pitchers who were not overly aggressive on strike outs. 

 

In the past players wanted to hit 300 and they hated to strikeout.So many things change. But pitchers who come up and have a short period of success is something that has been common throughout baseball history.

 

    • glunn likes this

The problem with the Twins old plan with pitching was every pitcher was the same basically, except for Santana.It was pitch low in zone do not walk people throw strikes.I remember a game I went to with Carlos Silva, he had a 87 pitch complete game, and even had a 3 pitch inning where he gave up a hit.The hitters knew strikes were coming so they were never off balance, for most part.The question was just where was it going to be hit.  

 

Then where the biggest problem was when a strikeout was needed, they could not get it.The Twins wanted to basically clone Radke, but he knew how to get strikeouts when he needed.Nothing wrong with pitching to contact with no one on base, but then be able to change it up once runners were on.I do not see a point spending tons of ptiches nibbling the corners when no one on base, unless it is a power hitter up, which now a days have increased.  

    • glunn, mikelink45 and DocBauer like this

Blackburn wasn't really a soft soft tosser. He averaged over 90 mph pretty much every season of his career. He'd sit low 90s and hit 94 with the rarely used 4 seamer.

You're correct, I think quarantine brain got me! His changeup was in the high 80s. He was more of the low walks/strikeout and groundball type but wasn't quite in that soft tosser mould.
    • glunn likes this
The problem with this is that Radke should be #1. He was talented and the epitome of the "old philosophy" of pitching to contact.

Not being a downer here, but for the 1,000 time, the "pitch to contact" philosophy was NOT about giving in to batters getting hits! It was about having a quality defense behind the pitcher, keeping the ball low in the zone to avoid power from the batter, and throwing strikes to avoid free passes.

This was a standard and successful mantra for how many decades?

Times change. The Twins changed slower than most. I think Trov is very accurate when he states that too few of the Twins pitchers had an OUT pitch to make a difference.

Batters today are so grounded in launch angle that the high pitch/strike has become a best friend for pitchers who can pull it off. Witness Oddo.

Santana and Liriano were extraordinary. It's just unfortunate Santana had to be moved and Liriano was injured as there was a flash of a window that could have been outstanding.

The milb system showed increased K rate in TR's final seasons, indicating change was slowly taking place. But this FO is just so much more in tune with the changes in the game that it is like B&W vs color.
    • mikelink45 likes this
A different view of this might be the old regime used a method that allowed them to get decent MLB performance out of limited talent.
    • Nine of twelve likes this

 

The problem with this is that Radke should be #1. He was talented and the epitome of the "old philosophy" of pitching to contact.

You could definitely argue that Mays should be #1. He had the two respectable years and then the big 3.1 fWAR year that earned him his contract. I mostly just slotted Blackburn at 1 because I think he's fresher in people's minds. Blackburn also never eclipsed a 12% K rate after his rookie season which absolutely cracks me up. 

 

I also think that yes, defense plays a big role in the success of pitchers like these who pitch to contact. But when you're THAT contact oriented, the BABIP monster is bound to catch up at some point, even before the launch angle revolution. It's why groundball specialists are projected to level off at number 4s or 5s in present day baseball. You don't see K rates as extreme as guys like Mays and Blackburn, but below average K rates limit a pitcher's ceiling with the exception of just putting together a tremendous season of BABIP luck. It's really fun to look back and see how things have changed.

    • DocBauer likes this
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Nine of twelve
Mar 31 2020 09:20 AM

 

That was when he was juicing. If you look at subsequent years you'll see that after he got caught and quit the juice his performance dropped off markedly.

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Nine of twelve
Mar 31 2020 09:32 AM

 

 Nothing wrong with pitching to contact with no one on base, but then be able to change it up once runners were on.I do not see a point spending tons of ptiches nibbling the corners when no one on base, unless it is a power hitter up, which now a days have increased.  

I'll expand on this. First, pitching to contact is what is says. It is NOT "spending tons of pitches nibbling", it's inducing batters to make less-than-ideal contact, especially early in the count. Neither pitching to contact nor pitching for a strikeout will be successful for everyone and neither should be the approach a pitching coach and manager should promote. Instead, the approach should be tailored to what works best for an individual pitcher. A strikeout is second only to a double play in the best possible outcome of a plate appearance for a pitcher but pitch to contact, if successful, will allow a starter to go further into a game (and into a career) because not as many pitches will need to be thrown to get outs.

    • mikelink45, DocBauer and Trov like this
I think the best pitchers will get weak contact due to some sort of movement on their pitch. Mariano Rivera had that cutter that would look good and then when you swing all of the sudden it's off of the end of the bat. Now Mariano could rack up some K's too. But he could also get weak flyball and a weak ground out too. Jack Morris had I think a splitter, and he'd get hit all the time, bit when he was on, the hits weren't great. I mean there are tons of guys with 95 - 100 mph fastballs and still get lit up. So I think the premier pitcher would be able to combine that pitch to contact, with also being a strikeout pitcher when you need to be. Those that can combine both skill sets will be able to pitch deep into games and be able to get themselves out of jams when they arise
    • Nine of twelve likes this