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Friday (The end of the pitch to contact era for the Twins) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball, Twins fans Updated: December 7, 2012 - 9:43 AM

 

There are two different versions, really of the somewhat infamous term "pitch to contact" when it comes to the Twins. The fans' version is that Minnesota stocks up on rag-arm hurlers who couldn't break a wet paper towel with their fastball and has them throw strikes at all costs in the hope that enough hard-hit balls will find gloves. The Twins' version -- and in reality the version employed or embraced by a lot of teams -- has held that, essentially, getting ahead in the count with quality (though not overpowering) pitches is critical for success, which ultimately comes when the batter (behind in the count) makes weak contact for easy outs. They were channeling Crash Davis:

 

Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring, and besides they're fascist. Throw some ground balls. It's more democratic.

There is some overlap in the two versions; there is also no doubt the philosophy has worked to a certain degree. When the Twins were winning six AL Central titles in a nine year span, they were often among the stingiest team in the majors when it came to allowing walks and never had a consistent strikeout pitcher for a long period of time outside of Johan Santana. Fans would complain that the philosophy worked well over a 162-game schedule, often against inferior division opponents, but fizzled in the postseason against better-hitting teams. The proof of that, of course, is in the fact that the Twins have lost their last 12 playoff games dating back to Game 2 of the 2004 ALDS. Nine of those losses came to the loaded Yankees. Still, six division titles are nothing to sneeze at.

In any event, we didn't come to praise Pitch to Contact. Instead, we came to bury it. Because it certainly appears the Twins are doing so. If the philosophy didn't die during the 2012 draft, when they loaded up on power arms, it has been finished off over the past week or so with the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere.

In return, the Twins received two flame-throwing prospects -- Alex Meyer and Trevor May -- as well as a young major league starter in Vance Worley who, while he is not a classic overpowering pitcher, does have a career MLB strikeout rate of 7.7 per nine innings (yes, he has a high called strike rate, but a strike is a strike).

In other words, this is a major shift in thinking. Jim Souhan described it thusly today:

When Terry Ryan made the Twins one of baseball's most respected organizations in the early 2000s, he employed a formula, his own version of Moneyball.

He emphasized drafting athletic players with fielding range and pitchers who threw strikes, and making trades for underappreciated prospects in the lower minor leagues, while avoiding spending big money on the free-agent market.

In his second tenure as the Twins' general manager, Ryan is following a similar plan with a significant twist: He's looking for power pitchers via all avenues.

''We want the kind of pitchers we haven't had enough of," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "Pitchers who can miss bats."

That's the money quote -- an acknowledgment that not only has there been a shift in thinking, but that relying too heavily on a pitch-to-contact staff is flawed. The Twins will surely look to harness these young throwers who are now in their system and work to bring their walk rates down. But it sounds like they won't mind seeing a few more strikeouts and overpowering stuff going forward.

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Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto 6 Bottom 9th Inning
NY Yankees 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston 2 Top 1st Inning
Baltimore 0
Milwaukee 0 Top 1st Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Washington 0 Top 1st Inning
Miami 0
NY Mets 0 Top 1st Inning
Atlanta 0
Chicago WSox 0 Top 1st Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cleveland 0 Delayed
Minnesota 0
Seattle 0 Top 1st Inning
Houston 0
Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:15 PM
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San Diego - A. Cashner
Texas - C. Lewis 8:05 PM
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So Florida 17
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(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
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(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
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Michigan 10
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Wake Forest 24
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
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Navy 24
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Kansas 24
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East Carolina 63
Virginia 33 4th Qtr 1:34
(21) BYU 41
Florida 21 4th Qtr 3:00
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 3rd Qtr 6:02
FIU 3
San Jose St 7 Delayed 11:38
Minnesota 17
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Indiana 24 4th Qtr 5:00
(18) Missouri 24
Texas State 14 2nd Qtr 3:05
Illinois 6
Georgia State 7 2nd Qtr 5:02
Washington 0
Appalachian St 0 1st Qtr 13:14
Southern Miss 7
Miss State 0 1st Qtr 13:33
(8) LSU 0
Northern Ill 0 1st Qtr 12:59
Arkansas 7
Middle Tennessee 0 1st Qtr 14:00
Memphis 0
Utah State 0 1st Qtr 11:53
Arkansas State 0
Miami-Ohio 0 1st Qtr 12:04
Cincinnati 0
Idaho 0 1st Qtr 11:58
Ohio U 0
Ball State 0 1st Qtr 13:20
Toledo 6
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
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(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
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New Mexico 7:00 PM
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Louisiana 9:30 PM
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(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
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(25) Oklahoma State
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(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
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Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
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(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
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Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
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Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
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(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
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Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
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FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
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Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
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Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
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Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
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Portland 3
Houston 0 1st Half 44:55
Philadelphia 0
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Columbus
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Montreal
Seattle 6:30 PM
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Chicago
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
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Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
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