MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 06: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch in the second inning against the New York Yankees during game one of the ALDS on October 6 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
A quote which led to (among others) this diatribe from IIATMS's Brien:
I will never, ever, understand people who buy this "pitch to contact" stuff. It just makes no sense at all from a mechanical standpoint. You're basically taking the approach of hoping that, rather than miss a pitch entirely, a hitter will make contact with the ball but avoid squaring it up and hitting it hard. Of course, how does this even work mechanically? Do you throw down the middle of the plate? Do you work around the edges? How exactly do you go about pitching so that the batter will neither square the ball up nor miss the pitch entirely?
I'm a big fan of the strikeout, and I'm not a big fan of instructing pitchers to pitch to contact. Particularly pitchers like Francisco Liriano, who has demonstrated real strikeout ability.
All that said, I'm reluctant to criticize the Twins' pitching philosophy, because it seems to have served them so well.
Since Johan Santana left after the 2007 season, the Twins have finished 10th in the American League in strikeouts in three straight seasons ... and in those same three seasons, they've ranked first in walks. That is, they've allowed fewer walks than anybody else in every season. I'm not sure if they're actually pitching to contact, or perhaps pitching to avoid walks.
In those same three seasons, the Twins have ranked seventh, 11th, and fifth in the league in ERA. This is not particularly impressive, except most of those pitchers were relatively cheap.
Would the Twins pitch better if the coaching staff encouraged more strikeouts? I don't know. I do believe that if you've got pitchers who can't get strikeouts without a lot of walks and high pitch counts, maybe they should be doing something else. I also believe if you've got a pitcher like Francisco Liriano who's capable of striking out 200 hitters while walking only 60, you stay the hell out of the way and watch him win.