Pitching to contact
Baker’s got a long bit on what pitching to contact means and how he sees that working out.
Pitching to contact means trying to get ahead in the count by throwing strikes and letting the ball get hit if it has to be hit. It means avoiding the “nibbling” syndrome that sees too many pitchers trying to paint the corners with perfect pitches. Nibbling is no way to be economical in your pitch count. Pitching to contact is.
It’s an interesting read.
As with most of these things, there’s really no good answer for me to throw out to this. You can certainly see that it could be more pitch-efficient and get starters deeper into a game. But you can also see that it depends on the pitcher, what they’re throwing, and how their command is.
Great pitches, great command: you shouldn’t care about pitching advice
Great pitches, horrible command: chuck it down the middle, let them swing and miss
Hittable pitches, great command: you want to live on speed changes and hitting the corners. Do not pitch to contact.
Horrible pitches, horrible command: you’re not going to be around long anyway.
A walk’s no worse than a hit, but it is worse than an average ball in play. So if the choice is hard-hit line drive or ball four, the game situation may determine which way you want to go.
Number of pitches thrown per batter isn’t, by itself, a good measure of effectiveness. If you can get every batter out on five, or give up a home run in one, you’re clearly better with the first.
Top 10 pitchers, most pitches thrown/PA
1. Chris Young (4.13)
2. Gil Meche
3. Matt Cain
4. Ted Lilly
5. Brad Penny
6. Jake Peavy
7. Carlos Zambrano
8. Erik Bedard
9. Curt Schilling
10. Bronson Arroyo
All of those guys had above-average strikeout rates, and even though they didn’t all get over the golden 2:1 K:BB ratio, they were close, and all of them had good seasons.
The bottom 10, least pitches thrown/PA
1. Greg Maddux (3.26)
2. Carlos Silva
3. Chien Wang
4. Aaron Cook
5. Roy Halladay
6. Dave Bush
7. Zach Duke
8. Brandon Webb
9. Nate Robertson
10. Jason Marquis
A lot of super-heavy groundballers there. As a group, the ten most-efficient got about three times the G/F ratio as the top ones. That’s huge. And that’s also the key: ground ball pitchers like Webb can pitch to contact in exactly the way that Baker’s talking about, because they don’t give up many line drives or home runs. A ball in play might be a single or a double, but it’s unlikely to be a home run. But pitching to contact for a fly-ball pitcher is a dangerous proposition, which is why they’re throwing more pitches even when they’re effective.
This intersects with the Mariners in two ways: they’ve got a fine infield defense, Ho and Batista both sport career G:F ratios of 1.67, Weaver’s not as heavy but his career’s at 1.16 … but Jarrod Wasburn’s career rate is .77. He’s been better in recent years, but he’s not the groundballer the other guys are. This could be dangerous advice for him.
Moreover, while the “pitch down in the zone” advice sounds great, the real issue is going to be whether they continue to preach fastball, fastball, fastball to their staff. These guys get their grounders on their good breaking pitches. If the team wants them to pitch to contact and pitch to contact with their fastballs, that’s trouble too.
As a side note, yesterday Baker posted a nickname entry which included this
Off to go run some miles and pump some weights so that my sweet girlfriend, Amy, who spent all night getting home to Seattle on a delayed Alaska Airlines flight, will want to come back here to see me this spring. If you’d ever laid eyes on her, you’d be out running too, trust me.
And it didn’t devolve into “pix plz tia”. I wonder if the PI blog hordes just haven’t noticed him yet. It did, in fairness, devolve in a different direction pretty fast.