Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Twins pitching philosophy in t-shirt form

The other evening I threw in the movie "Little Big League," because I was in the mood for a happy-go-lucky baseball movie.  I picked this one because it looks at the Minnesota Twins franchise from the perspective of a child.  I also think that it helped that I was about the same age as the protagonist when the movie came out.

If you are unfamiliar with the story here is a short synopsis of the plot.  A young boy lives with his mother in the Twin Cities area.  His grandfather (who looks a lot like the late Carl Pohlad) is a very rich man and the owner of the Minnesota Twins.  The grandfather and the boy are very close, some might even call them best friends.  The grandfather passes away suddenly and in his will he grants ownership of the team to the young boy.  The boy goes on to get rid of the current manager that has anger management issues.  He names himself as the new manager and leads the team on a wild ride full of antics and great baseball.  There are many cameos by major league players of the time including Ken Griffey Jr, Ivan Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson

There was one scene in the movie that caught my eye.  First of all the scene is suppose to be in the Twins clubhouse at the Metrodome.  For anyone that visited that clubhouse it is very clear that this is Hollywood elaborating on what a true clubhouse should look like.

The second thing that caught my eye was one of the team's pitchers is wearing a t-shirt with a slogan that is very fitting for a pitcher in the Twins organization.

In the shirt has the slogan, "Babe Ruth is Dead. Throw Strikes."  I thought that this was very fitting because this is the philosophy that the Twins have used in their organization for some time.  Young pitchers in the organization are taught to throw the ball over the plate.  In this philosophy the pitcher doesn't need to have overpowering stuff.  He just needs to hit his locations and let the batter get himself out.  As a pitcher you don't need to over think.  Throw the pitches that you have the most control of.  That is the core principal of good pitching.

There have been many that have been critical of the Twins philosophy when it comes to pitching.  The Twins have often drafted pitchers that don't have overpowering pitches.  They pick pitchers that can hit their spots.  If that means that they give up a lot of hits then so be it.  If that means that a lot of homeruns are hit off of the pitching staff then they will take it.  One of the hardest things to do in sports is to hit a round ball with a round bat.

One person that has been the most critical is former Twins ace Jack Morris.  Even in the playoffs Morris is critical of the pitching staff and specific pitchers.  He was frequently on the Twins radio broadcast getting after manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson.  He feels that the Twins are doing a few things wrong when it comes to their pitching philosophy.  One of the first complaints that he has is that Twins players are afraid to throw a ball when they are ahead in the count.  This is typically called a waste pitch.  His premise is that Twins pitchers have it ingrained in their mind that they must throw strikes at all time.

The second criticism that has come from both Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven is that the Twins let the pitch count of a player dictate when they are removed from the game.  They feel that pitch count is dictating too much of what managers do when it comes to pitchers. Following the Twins pitching philosophy usually allows for players to stay in the game longer.  By keeping pitches around the strike zone the pitch count should, hypothetically, stay lower.  There can be another side to that too.  If a pitcher is not hitting his spots and he is around the strike zone, he could get shelled.

Are these criticisms right? Do the Twins need a pitching philosophy change? Leave a comment below and let me know.


Ben said...

I agree with both those criticisms and I'll throw another one out there. Our pitchers are afraid to be aggressive and stand up for themselves/their team. I'll use game 1 against the Yankees this year as a good example of something that happens a lot. Sabathia plunked Thome almost in the head, twice to keep him off balance and brushed back. Do the Twins pitchers respond? Nope, they just throw down the middle. Opposing batters have no fear when they face the Twins, they're never brushed back or sent any resemblance of a message. A-Rod or Tex should have taken one in the ear hole after Thome did, but nothing, like usual, was ever done. That's a big problem that I have.

I like Anderson for the most part, but its those problems that I constantly see over and over again every year. I wouldn't mind seeing Anderson gone and bringing Bert in. That's for a different discussion though.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

I have heard that argument too. I saw pitchers from the Rangers go high and tight to A-Rod and the rest of the Yankees. It would be nice to see that kind of fire in the Twins pitchers.

Having Bert as a pitching coach is an interesting thought. But like you said a discussion that could take awhile.