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Twins Pitching Philosophy - Who's coordinating? Can they implement a new philosophy?

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#1 JB_Iowa

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 06:57 PM

I am not asking this question to be mocking. I am thinking back over where the Twins have been with their pitching staff.

As I recall, Rick Knapp was the Twins minor league pitching coordinator for a number of years -- until he got a call from the Tigers to be their pitching coach -- a position in which lasted about 3 years.

The Twins now have someone on their roster whose title is Eric Rasmussen, coordinator, pitching. Is this the same position that Rick Knapp held? What does anyone know about him? (When Knapp was in the position, I remember hearing about him all the time. I really don't recall hearing much, if anything about Rasmussen.)

For some reason I went back and looked up the number of strikeouts by Twins pitchers over the past 10 years or so. The numbers are from baseballreference.com along with their rank in the league (keeping in mind that there were only 14 teams until this year):

[TABLE="width: 192"]
[TR]
[TD="width: 64, align: right"]2013[/TD]
[TD="width: 64, align: right"]985[/TD]
[TD="width: 64, align: right"]15[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2012[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1058[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]11[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2011[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]940[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]14[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2010[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1048[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]10[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2009[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1052[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]10[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2008[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]995[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]10[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2007[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1094[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]4[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2006[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]862[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]10[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2005[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]965[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]7[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2004[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1123[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]3[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2003[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1020[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]7[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]2002[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1026[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]6[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]


So the most "powerful" pitching the Twins had was in the Santana era, specifically 2004 with 1123 strikeouts. Yet 1123 would still put them behind every other team in the league except the Astros this year and falls substantially below the AL average of 1235. (yes, I realize that hitters have also changed from that time period).

I know that the Twins have made a move to acquire more powerful pitchers in very recent years. But how did they get so "far behind the 8 ball"? And have they changed the way that they work with pitchers to ensure that power pitchers stay power pitchers (and more than that, progress to actually being good at the major league level)?

Really looking for some insight into the system. Thanks.

#2 Jim H

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 07:55 PM

I believe that Rasmussen does hold the same job that Knapp used to. I also don't think the Twins Pitching Philosophy has changed. They continue to emphasize working quickly, throwing strikes and working down in the zone. They discourage "nibblers" and while they don't discourage strikeouts they want their starters to get deep in the game. They want to limit walks. Nothing I have read, suggests the Twins will increase pitch limits, that is, 100 pitches is about it for most pitchers, most games.

I expect that many fans want to see siginificant changes in this Philosophy. I don't expect that to happen. During most of the Twins run of success in the 2000's this Philosophy worked pretty well, with largely home grown or at least Twins developed talent.

I don't know how this philosophy compares to that of other teams. It seems be to somewhat similar to what St. Louis seems to operate under. Oakland's is perhaps a bit different. Texas seems emphasize different things with their pitchers. Tampa Bay has much better pitchers right now, but I don't know that the organization's pitching philosophy is hugely different than the Twins. Personally, I expect that most organizations teach pretty much the same things. The difference is largely the quality of the pitchers.

#3 Thrylos

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 08:09 PM

I think that the Twins' philosophy stayed the same: Pound the strike zone and get strike one and strike 2 (hopefully looking) and then try to get them to hit it softly. The problem has been with the personnel: Those numbers in the early mid 00s were driven by Santana in the rotation and by pitchers like Nathan, Rincon, Neshek and Crain in the pen (check K/9s in those teams). The rest of the Twins (Radke being the poster boy) have been pitching the Twins' way... Lately, the staff has been throwing very hittable strike ones and that has been part of the Twins' issues. Interesting to see how many hits the Twins' teams have been giving on the first pitch of a PA vs the league...

Edited by Thrylos, 16 October 2013 - 08:15 PM.

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#4 old nurse

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 08:34 PM

There is nothing wrong with the philosophy of pound the zone and get ahead of the hitters. See how the Cardinals get ahead of the batters. It is that the hitter know there will be a mistake coming sooner or later and then bam. As Thyrlos notes, sometimes it is the first pitch.

#5 ThePuck

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 08:46 PM

A big issue I have is that even on 0-2, and 1-2 counts (pitcher's counts), opposing batters still know a hittable pitch will almost assuredly be coming anyway. Drives me nuts when I see that.
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#6 JB_Iowa

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 09:36 AM

Thanks for the responses. I guess I was under the impression that the Twins had made a bit more of an effort in the last year or so to acquire pitchers who had somewhat of a power profile as opposed to strictly control artists.

i have to think about all of this a bit more.

#7 The Wise One

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 12:44 PM

Thanks for the responses. I guess I was under the impression that the Twins had made a bit more of an effort in the last year or so to acquire pitchers who had somewhat of a power profile as opposed to strictly control artists.

i have to think about all of this a bit more.


The Twins drafted more power arms in 2012. Stewart last draft. In the past they have drafted power arms that failed to develop. Adam Johnson being the the most glaring example, but many of their 2nd round pitchers were higher velocity pitchers that fizzled .

#8 Siehbiscuit

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 01:19 PM

The Twins pitching philosophy isn't the problem, it's having pitchers that at only at their best can pitch this way. Garza, Liriano are just two elite arms that have found that there are other ways to "skin the cat." It's also been said countless times that when a pitcher has velocity there is far more room for error. Even the dart-throwing Greg Maddux could hit 93-94. The soft-tossers we have trotted out there recently have to be precise to excel and that is asking far too much for most anyone not heading to the HOF.

#9 Seth Stohs

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 01:50 PM

Thanks for the responses. I guess I was under the impression that the Twins had made a bit more of an effort in the last year or so to acquire pitchers who had somewhat of a power profile as opposed to strictly control artists.

i have to think about all of this a bit more.


The personnel needs to improve, not the philosophy. The philosophy, as others have highlighted it above, is sound. Attack the strike zone. Get ahead. That's pitching 101. That they're attempting to acquire different (presumably better) talent, that should never change the philosophy. What made Johan so good? it wasn't about his fastball velocity. It was about command of the fastball and a great changeup. He got ahead, attacked, threw strikes... all that combined with great stuff.

That some have dubbed the philosophy "Pitch to Contact" gave it a bit of a bad name. People chose to run with it. That that philosophy has not changed.

#10 Jim Crikket

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 10:41 AM

A big issue I have is that even on 0-2, and 1-2 counts (pitcher's counts), opposing batters still know a hittable pitch will almost assuredly be coming anyway. Drives me nuts when I see that.


I agree with this. So many pitchers in the organization seem to lack an "out pitch." Without his change-up, Santana would have been pretty average. Sure, it would be great to have pitchers who could dial up a 100 mph heater for a 3rd strike, a la Verlander, but I really don't care what pitch it is. Working ahead 0-2 or 1-2 doesn't do you much good if hitters can get a piece of whatever pitches come next until they work the count to 2-2 or 3-2. The lack of an out pitch is also what sends pitch counts to excessive levels.

I don't remember a Twins starting pitcher with anything resembling a true out pitch since the days when Liriano's slider was unhittable.
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#11 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 03:58 PM

A big issue I have is that even on 0-2, and 1-2 counts (pitcher's counts), opposing batters still know a hittable pitch will almost assuredly be coming anyway. Drives me nuts when I see that.


Agreed. I do think the Twins philosophy might get in the way a bit here. Maybe I just have selective memory and ignore the times when they do this, but I think this is where you expand the zone for at least one pitch. Good command pitchers can still get lots of weak outs/Ks here by putting one an inch off the plate.

#12 old nurse

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 05:56 PM

Mike Marshall once talked about the need for a pitcher to make a difficult pitch. A primarily sinkerball pitcher really doesn't have the out pitch. No blazing fastball, no wicked slider, no devastating changeup is generally what makes someone a 4-5 starter. The exception would be superior command. That is not the current Twins

#13 gunnarthor

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 08:57 AM

The Twins pitching philosophy isn't the problem, it's having pitchers that at only at their best can pitch this way. Garza, Liriano are just two elite arms that have found that there are other ways to "skin the cat." It's also been said countless times that when a pitcher has velocity there is far more room for error. Even the dart-throwing Greg Maddux could hit 93-94. The soft-tossers we have trotted out there recently have to be precise to excel and that is asking far too much for most anyone not heading to the HOF.


I don't remember Maddux ever hitting 93-94 unless it was the same way Radke could hit it. Fangraphs has Maddux's avg fb from 02-08 as sitting around 85mph (Radke was 88mph). Now this was the end of Maddux's career but it still covered multiple 200+ip 4+ WAR seasons.

#14 kab21

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 11:03 AM

They are addressing it by adding Stewart, meyer, May, Berrios, Gonsalves and Thorpe in the last 2 yrs to the minors system. Yes, they went the opposite direction by adding Corriea and Pelfrey but they weren't going to teach the other MLB starters to K batters with mediocre stuff. It will take time.