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Thread: Twins Pitching Philosophy

  1. #1
    Owner All-Star John Bonnes's Avatar
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    Twins Pitching Philosophy

    Pavano on the mound yesterday sparked some debate about this, but it's worth it's own thread.

    The common criticism is that the Twins don't care enough about strikeouts and power, opting instead for control and low walk rates. This runs counter to sabrmetric studies that suggest the one of the most effective way to keep runners off base is to keep them from putting the ball in play.

    I might counter with this: it's not like one can go out and buy flamethrowers off the shelves at Cub (especially not at a discount). There is nothing revolutionary about saying "Guys who strike guys out are very good." Every team wants those guys. They want them in free agency, and they want them in trades and they want them in the draft. It's hard to compete for those guys when a team:

    a) played with a fairly low payroll for most of the last decade
    b) was adamant about sticking to the "slot" amount in the draft and
    c) was successful enough to consistently get lower picks in the draft
    d) and, let's face it, has dealt with some injuries to some high upside pitchers.

    Rather than compete in a crowded market, they've looked for a market inefficiency and that is control. And for the most part it has worked. They've had enough starting pitching to keep them competitive and enough bullpen arms to consistently give them an advantage over most of the last decade.

    But a decade of success is catching up with them and things are getting even leaner.

    Am I wrong?

  2. #2
    Owner MVP Seth Stohs's Avatar
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    I would argue that in recent drafts, the Twins have attempted to add a lot of power arms. They certainly seem to have a higher injury risk (although I could be proven wrong). I think pitchers can be successful throwing 89-91, but when Pavano was throwing 84-86, it won't work because all it takes is a pitch not moving like you'd hope for it to be crushed.

    I love 'pitch to contact' in theory, when it is just saying "throw strikes and don't worry about strikeouts. It also has to mean that you have to play good defense. The Twins won for so long because of pitch to contact and great defense.

  3. #3
    Senior Member All-Star Thrylos's Avatar
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    I don't know whether you are wrong or not but the Twins:

    a. Tried to make strikeout pitchers pitch to contact pitchers at every level of the organization (for recent examples look at Liriano at the MLB level and Slowey -check his k/9 before he met Andy) and prey to the devine 2-seamer that supposely induces ground balls (I do not know a single pitcher in the organization who does not throw it...) Problem with the 2-seamer is that often it low and away and it takes a while to command. Now I am thinking about it, I wonder whether the yips that several prospects have exhibited are because of the 2-seamer... And if you don't have above average IF defense, that is a problem.

    b. They get rid of their strikeout pitchers even when they don't have to, while sign pitch to contact guys long term. Compare and contrast the treatment of Liriano and Garza with that of Blackburn and Pavano.

    Pitch to contact guys are ok for your 3rd starters down, but you got to have at least a couple starters on your staff who miss bats, unless you want to live in mediocrity like the Twins have since after 1991.
    Also, pitching to contact in the pen is a fairly deleterious recipe (esp if contact is made on straight mid 80s FBs down the middle). And the Twins have been poisoned last season with it... This season? We'll see...
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    The King In The North All-Star Nick Nelson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
    I don't know whether you are wrong or not but the Twins:

    a. Tried to make strikeout pitchers pitch to contact pitchers at every level of the organization (for recent examples look at Liriano at the MLB level and Slowey -check his k/9 before he met Andy)
    I think this is an exaggerated myth. Slowey's K-rate dropped because his stuff wasn't good enough to fool big-league batters -- I don't think that had much with his coaching instruction. Liriano's K-rate dropped from 10 K/9 in the minors to 9 K/9 in the majors -- that's a pretty typical transition, esp with the injury problems.

    The Twins definitely seek out pitch-to-contact types, but the idea that they are always trying to reinvent strikeout pitchers is overblown.

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    I agree with John that they may have been able to take advantage of an inefficiency in the market over the past decade. If so, it's quite possible that said inefficiency doesn't exist anymore since in professional sports immitation is the highest form of flattery. They have attempted to draft power arms more recently and have had horrible luck as witnessed by a few of the minor league releases this spring. I have read or heard about how the Rays have done an excellent job of developing power arms and keeping those arms healthy. Anybody got any further information on their success and how the Twins might try to imitate the Rays success?

  6. #6
    Senior Member All-Star Thrylos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
    Liriano's K-rate dropped from 10 K/9 in the minors to 9 K/9 in the majors -- that's a pretty typical transition, esp with the injury problems.
    I think that if you look back to quotes from Andy and Gardy around ST 2011 and throughout the 2011 season, you will remember them saying that they wanted Liriano to pitch to contact and generate quicker outs. Plus they asked him to start throwing the 2-seamer (which he did not throw before.) All in all I blame Andy and Gardy to a large degree for messing up Liriano's 2011...
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
    "Guys who strike guys out are very good." Every team wants those guys. They want them in free agency, and they want them in trades and they want them in the draft.

    Am I wrong?
    I don't think the Twins want those guys. They tried Jim Hoey and that didn't work out. That probably tainted their view of power arms. They traded Billy Bullock, a big, hard throwing 2nd round pick to the Braves a year ago for Scott Diamond. Diamond is yet another 89-91 mph back of the rotation guy that the Twins were inexplicably enamored with. They had Matt Garza and they traded him. They signed Jason Marquis. Didn't they alter Carlos Gutierrez' style from power pitching to control pitcher? For years the "Twins Way" was to pitch to contact (it still is) and they had this view from the bottom up. Remember minor league pitching coach Rick Knapp? He was all about pitching to contact and keeping walks down. Their recent draft picks are not overpowering pitchers.

    I think you are right that they've overworked that avenue of success.
    "Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand."

  8. #8
    The King In The North All-Star Nick Nelson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
    I think that if you look back to quotes from Andy and Gardy around ST 2011 and throughout the 2011 season, you will remember them saying that they wanted Liriano to pitch to contact and generate quicker outs. Plus they asked him to start throwing the 2-seamer (which he did not throw before.) All in all I blame Andy and Gardy to a large degree for messing up Liriano's 2011...
    This seems to be a popular sentiment, and IMO it's utterly ridiculous. Liriano showed up to camp out of shape and unable to throw strikes. The coaches starting asking him to "pitch to contact" as in "throw strikes early in the count," which is a perfectly reasonable request given that he was overthrowing erratically. It's not like you were hearing all this pitch to contact stuff being applied to Liriano in 2010 when he was striking people out and pitching effectively.

    As much as Liriano wanted to blame others last year (and apparently he succeeded in getting people to buy into it), his problems were his own. If you can't throw the ball over the plate, it's on you, and that was the case for Frankie basically all year.

  9. #9
    Twins Moderator MVP USAFChief's Avatar
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    It's hard to compete for those guys when:

    1. Your payroll issues are at least partially self-imposed.

    2. You squander a good chunk of your self-imposed payroll limitations on tossing $16.5M at a Carl Pavano, and in the process cost yourself a high draft pick. By comparison, Yu Darvish is being paid $5.5M in 2012, and will average less than $10M per season thru 2017. I realize the Rangers had to pay a lot for his rights, but we were told we can't use Nishioka's signing rights fees when we claimed signing Nishioka wasn't much cheaper than signing Hardy.

    3. You make choices such as trading arms like Bullock for Diamond

    I agree that it's not as easy as snapping your fingers to acquire guys who throw hard. I agree the Twins face some limiting factors. But one of the biggest limiting factors is their own philosophy. I might be in the minority, but I'd like to see a couple things change:

    a. I don't expect the Pohlad brothers to consistently lose a ton of money on yearly operations. I do expect them to push payroll less than 3 yrs into a new stadium deal, after selling out the place 2 years running. Current Forbes estimates have the value of the franchise now around $500M (purchase price, $44M), while generating in excess of $15M operating income at last years payroll level. For that, we get a CUT of $15M this year? Is it too much to ask to expect the Pohlad brothers to operate the team at something approaching break even? The value of the franchise has a paper profit of $450M, and they gotten over $400M from the public for 2 stadiums.

    b. Stop wasting money on the Carl Pohlads of the world. If you can't spend it wisely, save it up for a couple years and go get an actual impact player.

    c. Draft, trade, and sign FAs with the goal of finding impact players, rather than finding the next 4.50 ERA innings eater. You can get Jason Marquis in FA every year, there's no need to try to develop your own.

    d. Realize that drafting a Ben Revere in the first round, just because you're sure you can sign him cheaply, is penny wise and pound foolish.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer Highabove's Avatar
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    In Ben Goessling's article, Espn lead writer Keith Law opines on the Twins pitching philosophy.

    "They built their rotations - they still do build their rotations, to a large degree - around strike-throwers who don't have big stuff. Those guys can get you through a regular season, and you can do pretty well. But when you go up in the postseason against a deep, patient lineup, those lineups chew those pitchers up and spit them out.
    It's, You can't miss my bat, so I'm just going to wait you out, and eventually, you're going to leave something over the plate that I can drive."

    Will this also apply to the power lineups that the Twins will be facing during the regular Season? Detroit and others???
    Last edited by Highabove; 04-08-2012 at 03:51 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
    I think this is an exaggerated myth. Slowey's K-rate dropped because his stuff wasn't good enough to fool big-league batters -- I don't think that had much with his coaching instruction. Liriano's K-rate dropped from 10 K/9 in the minors to 9 K/9 in the majors -- that's a pretty typical transition, esp with the injury problems.

    The Twins definitely seek out pitch-to-contact types, but the idea that they are always trying to reinvent strikeout pitchers is overblown.
    +1. People got up in arms when the Twins asked Liriano to pitch more to contact last year, but in all reality that is the right advice to give to a guy who is walking 5+ guys a game and throwing 100+ pitches by the 6th inning.

    I have a hard time blaming Gardy/Anderson for the lack of strike out pitchers on the staff, if you want power arms you gotta go out and trade for them (or not trade them away in Garza's case), draft them or sign them in free agency.

  12. #12
    Most of these replies fit with what I was going to say, so I'll omit my Bullock for Diamond comment. Sure it looks bad now, but where was everyone when the trade was made? Oh! That's right! We all knew it was a stupid trade then. Which leads me to my point:

    The Twins have done way too many stupid things through the years to deserve to win anything. What really happened was they got lucky. They got lucky that a certain group of players (Koskie, AJP, Minky, Hunter) had the right stuff. That at the same time these guys were developing got lucky that tthree draft picks were MVP-caliber. Still they made great decisions on Mauer, Morneau, and then Santana in Rule V...but they got lucky. Most good teams get lucky like this, so it's not a denigration. They also had a great manager in Tom Kelly. When Kelly left, he had them ready to win. Add in the MVP-types, and you get a decade of success in a poor division.

    But besides getting lucky, an organization has to do smart things all along the way. Gardenhire was a consistently poor manager, Ryan consistently a poor GM, and Smith maybe the worst ever. Ryan has some redeeming qualities...almost exclusively in the scouting and development areas, so if he never makes a major league move, it's an optimization of his abilities.

    Let's face it. Everything lucky thing happened at the right time...when Cleveland went downhill, and Detroit was floundering, Chisox mediocre, KC just pure sucking. Now Detroit and KC will be strong for years, and the Twins don't have the players, the smarts, and certainly not the manager to really be able to compete on a consistent basis...there might be a lucky year in the next ten. I expect the football Gophers to compete better this decade than the Twins will.

  13. #13
    I think there are a couple different issues at work. First is the idea of pitching to contact, versus refusing to give in. It's a trade-off between extra-base hits and walks. I'm not sure one approach is necessarily better than the other... it just depends on the pitcher and the team around him.

    The second and more important issue is pitcher quality. If a guy stinks there is no approach that will yield great results. A guy with good stuff can attack the zone and be effective. I think the main reason the Twins lack pitchers with good stuff is their drafting strategy- even after the first few rounds they strongly prefer low-ceiling college guys to raw high schoolers. If you draft enough 18-year olds with a live fastball, some of them will turn into Major League power pitchers.

    They have obviously drafted high school pitchers over the years, and had disappointments, injuries, etc., but not to the same degree as a lot of clubs. I understand focusing on college pitchers in the first 2 rounds or so, but after that it's really hard to find guys with much upside. Why bother drafting someone with 5th-starter upside? They can get that anywhere. Take a high school pitcher and work with him. Most will flame out but some will add velocity and learn how to pitch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twinstalker View Post
    Most of these replies fit with what I was going to say, so I'll omit my Bullock for Diamond comment. Sure it looks bad now, but where was everyone when the trade was made? Oh! That's right! We all knew it was a stupid trade then. Which leads me to my point:

    The Twins have done way too many stupid things through the years to deserve to win anything. What really happened was they got lucky. They got lucky that a certain group of players (Koskie, AJP, Minky, Hunter) had the right stuff. That at the same time these guys were developing got lucky that tthree draft picks were MVP-caliber. Still they made great decisions on Mauer, Morneau, and then Santana in Rule V...but they got lucky. Most good teams get lucky like this, so it's not a denigration. They also had a great manager in Tom Kelly. When Kelly left, he had them ready to win. Add in the MVP-types, and you get a decade of success in a poor division.

    But besides getting lucky, an organization has to do smart things all along the way. Gardenhire was a consistently poor manager, Ryan consistently a poor GM, and Smith maybe the worst ever. Ryan has some redeeming qualities...almost exclusively in the scouting and development areas, so if he never makes a major league move, it's an optimization of his abilities.

    Let's face it. Everything lucky thing happened at the right time...when Cleveland went downhill, and Detroit was floundering, Chisox mediocre, KC just pure sucking. Now Detroit and KC will be strong for years, and the Twins don't have the players, the smarts, and certainly not the manager to really be able to compete on a consistent basis...there might be a lucky year in the next ten. I expect the football Gophers to compete better this decade than the Twins will.
    Correct. They got lucky. Last year their luck ran out. This off-season to address the pitching woes they re-signed Capps and got Marquis. Now, you're playing with bad loaded dice. It's gonna be craps you lose, and snake eyes every time.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer Highabove's Avatar
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    At the time of the Diamond trade, there was various criticism on the internet over the trade.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Highabove View Post
    At the time of the Diamond trade, there was various criticism on the internet over the trade.
    Various? Did anybody but the bobos who will always accept anything like it? I think the more knowledgeable among the internetters were pretty much all against it.

  17. #17
    Twins Moderator MVP Riverbrian's Avatar
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    If you can't strike them out... Don't walk them. When those extra base hits happen. They are less damaging without the bases clogged on free passes. Rather elementary. In the End, I'd like to have the Phillies Rotation but if you don't... Don't walk batters. It's not the perfect answer but if it's the best you can do. Do it.

  18. #18
    Twins Moderator MVP ashburyjohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Highabove View Post
    "They built their rotations - they still do build their rotations, to a large degree - around strike-throwers who don't have big stuff. Those guys can get you through a regular season, and you can do pretty well. But when you go up in the postseason against a deep, patient lineup, those lineups chew those pitchers up and spit them out.
    I've long felt the same argument applies to your batters, too. Hustle guys like Punto make their mark every now and then during the season, and then when you insert them in the post-season can you be at all surprised if they collect an ofer?

  19. #19
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    A few things that struck me reading this thread...

    1) Not trying to strike everyone out is NOT the same as trying not to strike everyone out. I seriously think that should be read several times until it makes sense by some people. More so in the case of Liriano than anyone I can remember for the Twins, this is a key piece of what I see as the perception of people who I don't think necessarily even know what "pitch to contact" means. I think the phrase is a bit misleading, even.

    2) Agree with Nick that I haven't seen much or any evidence that the Twins have tried to stop people from throwing hard. Also think they've clearly gone out of their way to acquire velocity on some occasions lately (Hoey, Oliveros are examples). And I know there was at least one time I saw Gardenhire quoted this off-season talking about trying to get more high-velocity pitchers (I believe he was specifically talking about the bullpen in the case quoted). It's possible that they thought Diamond was a better pitcher than Bullock in that particular case, isn't it? Shouldn't that be a more important factor than "one throws harder than the other so we have to keep that one?"

    3) Rather a general comment on tone. There's been a few threads that have gotten derailed due to name-calling and people upset about someone having a different general philosophy. Hopefully this isn't taken that way, but instead as a legitimate attempt to make a point. I don't see how this pattern is "realist" more than "fantasy"... Observe success, conclude luck. Observe another success, conclude luck. Observe another success, conclude luck. Observe neutral outcome, conclude luck. Observe success, conclude luck. Observe neutral outcome, conclude luck. Observe three more successes in a row, conclude luck. Observe failure, AHA!!!!!!!! My premise is finally proven that they were terrible all along!

  20. #20
    Senior Member All-Star
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    I agree with Nick, for the most part. Generally, I think the Twins pitching philosophy has been extremely successful and helpful to the team. I don't know how people feel about WAR but a few fun WAR facts - Radke had as many 5 WAR seasons as Red Sox aces Beckett and Lackey have, combined. Blackburn and Slowey have as many 2 WAR seasons as much hyped Yankee prospects Chamberlain and Hughes. Control pitchers have been underrated. And the team hasn't lost in the playoffs b/c of the soft tossers - Baker, Blackburn and Pavano all had good outings for us against the Yankees. It was our hard throwers like Liriano, Nathan and Crain that got roughed up the most.

    The last few drafts the Twins have seemed to change philosophy a bit and drafted some flame throwing relief pitchers. We'll see how that works out. I also think people should remember how hard it is to get a Verlander type pitcher when you've drafted in the 20s most of the decade.

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