There is one of our despised phrases, and one of the Twins’ favorites and it’s “pitching to contact.” The Twins use this to justify their affinity of pitchers that don’t walk anyone, but unfortunately also fail to strike out many hitters. We’re seeing that phrase quite a bit this offseason, as the Twins have just signed RHP Jason Marquis to fill out the rotation, and he’s essentially a Carl Pavano or Nick Blackburn clone. Those three pitchers are going to go the chuck-‘n’-duck route, whereas the other two starters, Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, will actually be able to strike out some hitters.
Last season, there was some controversy when the Twins expressed they wanted Francisco Liriano to “pitch to contact” more. Here we had a starter whose main weapon was getting hitters to swing-and-miss, and yet the Twins wanted him to stray from that strategy. It was a comment that most of us (including myself) didn’t take to very well. However, beneath the surface, the Twins were trying to say that they wanted Liriano to reduce his number of pitches in an outing by getting quicker outs. In fact, here’s a quote from Ron Gardenhire in a Phil Mackey column from last season:
“Use that two-seamer, and use that slider down and in every once in a while, and that changeup, but pitch to contact early,” Gardenhire said. “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.”