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White Sox: Pitch to Contact

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#1 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 03:46 PM

Just saying....we're not the only ones with this very sane approach to fixing Liriano. By whatever catch phrase you want to call it....

#2 Nick Nelson

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 04:37 PM

Gee. Imagine that. Maybe telling an erratic pitcher with good stuff to try and put the ball in the strike zone isn't so reprehensible after all.

#3 Nick Nelson

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 04:43 PM

FWIW, here's a post I wrote last summer pointing out the flaws in blaming the Twins for Liriano's issues: http://twinsfanatnic...n-of-blame.html.

I thought the third comment, from "Matt," was pretty good: "Nobody is successful consistently behind in the count. All they asked him was to throw it over, and he can't do it. The next team will ask him to throw it over, too."

#4 Willihammer

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 04:56 PM

As the name implies, the aim of pitch to contact isn't to reduce walk rate, its to induce contact.

The logic being, evidently, that Liriano's success in 2006 and 2010 was due to his career high GB rates.

However, in fact, Adam Peterson proves yet again, that ground ball rate scales with velocity and whiff rate.

http://www.twinkieto...t-on-a-fastball

#5 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 05:28 PM

Yeah had to post this after my defense of "pitch to contact" goes back two years. The fact is you cant strike batters out if batters doubt your ability to throw strikes.

#6 Nick Nelson

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 06:37 PM

As the name implies, the aim of pitch to contact isn't to reduce walk rate, its to induce contact.

? Really?

#7 Alex

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 06:56 PM

As the name implies, the aim of pitch to contact isn't to reduce walk rate, its to induce contact.


The logic of course, being that forcing a hitter to put the ball in play means that most of them get themselves out 7/10 times; whereas a walk never gets them out. So, yes, the oft stated pitch to contact phrase is also about walks. Obviously, strikeouts are the ideal, but I remember an interview with Verlander last year where he said realized he can go deeper into games when he isn't trying to strike every batter out.

#8 twinsnorth49

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 07:18 PM

Yeah had to post this after my defense of "pitch to contact" goes back two years. The fact is you cant strike batters out if batters doubt your ability to throw strikes.


Pat on back.

#9 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 08:49 PM

Pat on back.


Damn right it is. People in this town, on every local web page, on every local radio station were blasting the Twins for this. And with a complete misrepresentation of what was happening. The Liriano defenders have always made the Twins out to be the villans in his incompetence but he's always been his own worst enemy. And now a pitching guru that many of these same voices adore is doing the same damn thing the Twins did. "Pitch to contact" just means "throw strikes early in the count" or "don't get behind". Just because the Twins have had a string of players unable to capitalize on that philosophy with strikeouts doesn't mean it isn't the right approach.

#10 Willihammer

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:05 AM

"Pitch to contact" just means "throw strikes early in the count" or "don't get behind".


Are there competing approaches?

Pitchers are given a goal from little league, to get strike one over. That is so obvious as to be ubiquitous.

Pitch to contact is more specific than "get ahead of the hitter." It is, more like, continue to throw hittable strikes after you are ahead, in order to induce contact, rather than throwing junk and a. getting a whiff for strike 3, b. inducing weak contact/foul ball, or c. throwing a ball, and ratcheting up the pitch count.

They are not the same thing.

#11 jimbo92107

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:50 AM

You want Liriano to throw strikes? Simple: Make him practice with a mud puddle on both sides of the mound. If he does one of his wacky whirly follow throughs, he lands in the mud. If he finishes on balance, he stays clean and dry. Strike three!

#12 TheLeviathan

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 04:26 PM

Pitchers are given a goal from little league, to get strike one over. That is so obvious as to be ubiquitous.


And yet, so many that reach the major leagues can't do it. You're confusing the Twins inability to develop pitchers that can finish off hitters with their pitching philosophy. Nothing wrong with risking contact in the name of getting ahead of hitters. The issue this team has is not having the talent to take advantage.

Liriano had the talent to take advantage, but apparently his minor league instructors ubiquitous enough.

#13 Willihammer

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 06:35 PM

Again there isn't a coach in the history of baseball who has taught his pitchers to fall behind hitters. I'm not sure if you think that is my counter point to the pitch to contact theory but its not.

Re: Liriano, Andy and now Don Cooper evidendly, have failed to get through to him. As jimbo said, Liriano's strike throwing problems are mechanical. It isn't that Liriano places some misguided value in falling behind hitters or doesn't understand the objective of pitching. For Andy and Cooper to imply as much sounds like excuse making to me.

Re: pitch to contact, if the Twins don't have the talent to "take advantage," then why do they continue to preach it? Here are some absurd statistics to show, a. how well the Twins have executed pitching to contact approach, and b. how flamboyantly it has failed them.

Posted Image

#14 gunnarthor

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 06:44 PM

Again there isn't a coach in the history of baseball who has taught his pitchers to fall behind hitters. I'm not sure if you think that is my counter point to the pitch to contact theory but its not.

Re: Liriano, Andy and now Don Cooper evidendly, have failed to get through to him. As jimbo said, Liriano's strike throwing problems are mechanical. It isn't that Liriano places some misguided value in falling behind hitters or doesn't understand the objective of pitching. For Andy and Cooper to imply as much sounds like excuse making to me.

Re: pitch to contact, if the Twins don't have the talent to "take advantage," then why do they continue to preach it? Here are some absurd statistics to show, a. how well the Twins have executed pitching to contact approach, and b. how flamboyantly it has failed them.

Posted Image


What are those results for the entire Gardy/Andy years?

#15 jokin

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 06:45 PM

Again there isn't a coach in the history of baseball who has taught his pitchers to fall behind hitters. I'm not sure if you think that is my counter point to the pitch to contact theory but its not.

Re: Liriano, Andy and now Don Cooper evidendly, have failed to get through to him. As jimbo said, Liriano's strike throwing problems are mechanical. It isn't that Liriano places some misguided value in falling behind hitters or doesn't understand the objective of pitching. For Andy and Cooper to imply as much sounds like excuse making to me.

Re: pitch to contact, if the Twins don't have the talent to "take advantage," then why do they continue to preach it? Here are some absurd statistics to show, a. how well the Twins have executed pitching to contact approach, and b. how flamboyantly it has failed them.

Posted Image


Gardy, Andy and TR: somehow "flamboyant" doesn't come to mind when trying to characterize them adjectivally. At least the braintrust have proudly accomplished No. 1 rankings in Contact Rate and Double Plays, Woohoo!:jump:

#16 jokin

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 06:46 PM

[quote name='gunnarthor'][quote name='Willihammer']Again there isn't a coach in the history of baseball who has taught his pitchers to fall behind hitters. I'm not sure if you think that is my counter point to the pitch to contact theory but its not.

Re: Liriano, Andy and now Don Cooper evidendly, have failed to get through to him. As jimbo said, Liriano's strike throwing problems are mechanical. It isn't that Liriano places some misguided value in falling behind hitters or doesn't understand the objective of pitching. For Andy and Cooper to imply as much sounds like excuse making to me.

Re: pitch to contact, if the Twins don't have the talent to "take advantage," then why do they continue to preach it? Here are some absurd statistics to show, a. how well the Twins have executed pitching to contact approach, and b. how flamboyantly it has failed them.

Posted Image[/QUOTE]

What are those results for the entire Gardy/Andy years?[/QUOTE]

AKA, the Era of Flamboyancy...

#17 Willihammer

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 07:48 PM

No, but never has the team executed so perfectly the pitch to contact theory except 2011 and 2012. As you go back through the years, you will find that there is a pretty close inverse relationship between contact % and ERA, for example. In years where they were pitching more to miss bats, the results were better. 2006 was the last year the Twins were among the elite teams in pitching (3rd in ERA), and not surprisingly, they also had the 3rd best contact rate at just 79.5 %.

Pick a year, any year you like from the Gardy/Andy era and you'll find this relationship holds up: http://www.fangraphs...lter=&players=0

#18 Nick Nelson

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 11:53 PM

No, but never has the team executed so perfectly the pitch to contact theory except 2011 and 2012. As you go back through the years, you will find that there is a pretty close inverse relationship between contact % and ERA, for example. In years where they were pitching more to miss bats, the results were better. 2006 was the last year the Twins were among the elite teams in pitching (3rd in ERA), and not surprisingly, they also had the 3rd best contact rate at just 79.5 %.

Pick a year, any year you like from the Gardy/Andy era and you'll find this relationship holds up: http://www.fangraphs...lter=&players=0

It's based on personnel, not philosophy. The Twins were not "pitching more to miss bats" in 2006, they had more strikeout pitchers. Currently they do not have many guys on their staff capable of high strikeout rates.

If your argument is that the Twins should seek out more hurlers with the ability to miss bats, it's a very valid one. But there is simply no evidence that their coaching approach has had any meaningful impact on a specific pitcher's strikeout numbers. Last year, they asked Liriano to be more efficient (well warranted after an 80-pitch, three-inning ST outing) and stop trying to nibble around the edges so much. In other words: throw the ball over the plate.

I'm not sure what exactly you think pitch-to-contact means. Telegraph the location of the ball so that the batter can hit it?

#19 Willihammer

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 07:11 AM

But Liriano is a strikeout pitcher.

The implication here seems to be that Liriano placed a misguided value in falling behind hitters, and only needed to be told, that his objective was the reverse.

That is preposterous.

#20 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 07:32 AM

But Liriano is a strikeout pitcher.

The implication here seems to be that Liriano placed a misguided value in falling behind hitters, and only needed to be told, that his objective was the reverse.

That is preposterous.


His objective wasn't to walk guys but there are plenty of pitchers who try to get "cute" with their pitching and nibble at the corners, like they're suddenly a reincarnation of Greg Maddux.

I'm not saying that's what Liriano did (I think his problems are far more complex than that) but it's not as if that tendency is unheard of in the pitching community. In their minds, they're trying to get guys out but their actions are counter-productive to that goal.

"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.

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.

#21 Willihammer

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 08:19 AM

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

#22 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 08:27 AM

[quote name='Willihammer']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[/QUOTE]

You read my last sentence, right?

[quote][COLOR=#333333]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.[/COLOR][/quote]

Or this entire paragraph?

[quote][COLOR=#333333]"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.[/COLOR][/quote]

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.

#23 Coach J

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 08:39 AM

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

#24 Willihammer

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 09:21 AM

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?

#25 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 09:40 AM

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.

#26 TheLeviathan

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 10:29 AM

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.

#27 Nick Nelson

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 12:59 PM

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??

#28 Willihammer

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 01:31 PM

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.

#29 ashburyjohn

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 02:26 PM

"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.)

#30 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 02:34 PM

"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.