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“Pitch to Contact.”
It’s just a three-word phrase, but for some reason, a lot of Twins fans seem to think it has a negative connotation, and frankly, I don’t understand why.
Here is my definition of “Pitch to Contact.”
Don’t walk people. Throw strikes. Hit spots in the strike zone. Make the batters swing the bat.
That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For some reason, people take that phrase as saying, “Don’t strike people out.”
Earlier in the year, the Twins told Francisco Liriano to Pitch to Contact. Some thought that it meant that he shouldn’t strike people out. That’s not the case. The team wanted him to stop walking people and throwing five to seven pitches per batter. Liriano was struggling early with command of the strike zone. He wasn’t getting through even five innings.
In the game after getting the advice, he got beat by an inning where he gave up a bunch of seeing-eye singles. However, in that game, he was throwing more strikes. Even in his no-hitter, he walked a bunch and yet, as the game went along, he also got some quick outs. In his two starts since his return from the Disabled List, he has been terrific. And on Sunday, he threw eight innings and walked none and struck out nine. When Liriano pitches to contact (ie, throwing strikes), his “stuff” is still hard to hit and he gets strikeouts. When Scott Baker throws strikes and pitches to contact, he can get strikeouts. He has terrific stuff. When Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn pitch to contact, they have to be a little bit more fine because they don’t have the great ‘stuff’ and can more easily give up hits.
This pitch-to-contact philosophy is one that has been very successful for the Twins in the past decade. It is what made pitchers like Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat and Brad Radke and Kevin Tapani successful over the years. Strikeouts come from throwing strikes. Runs are given up by walking hitters and falling behind in counts.
If Liriano continues to pitch to contact, he is going to be great and rack up a lot of strikeouts. All that is great for the Twins, and their fans!
For more on Liriano and the Twins big decisions to come this week, be sure to listen to last night’s SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins Podcast.
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