Several weeks ago, Ron Gardenhire said a quote that has received a bunch of scorn ever since:
We’ve told him forever that he’s a strikeout pitcher. We understand that he can strike people out, but if he really wants to become a pitcher, pitch to contact. Use that two-seamer and use that slider down and in every once in a while, and that changeup, but pitch to contact early. That’ll get him deep into games.
Because his stuff is so good. There’s times when you need to go for the strikeout. That’s when you save your Mr. Nasty, as they say. You throw the nasty pitches then. But those other times you need to pitch to contact to get you deeper into games. When you want that big strikeout, maybe with a man on second, and you’ve got an open base, take your shot with your stuff.
If we go back to last year, this would have been a puzzling comment by Gardy. While he only averaged a little more than 6 innings per start, Liriano had an above-average 2.72 BB/9 (major league average was 3.28) and threw only 3% fewer pitches in the strike zone (43.3% vs. an average of 46.5%) last season. If anything, Liriano had average to above-average control in 2010.