After Francisco Liriano was peppered by the Royals for 7 runs on 8 hits over 5 innings, I read the ESPN recap, expecting to run into the usual mixture of facts and fluff. I ended up reading this bit about the Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire:
Gardenhire has been telling Liriano to relax, trust his movement and pitch to contact. In the first three innings, Liriano holds a 2.00 ERA; from the fourth inning on, his ERA jumps to 18.56 and hitters are hitting .448 off him.
"I threw more fastballs than I'm used to today," Liriano said. "I just wanted them to put the ball in play and not strike them out."
Okay...that's just a mind-crippling level of dumb.
While I get that the Twins still want to be careful with Liriano, it's been quite a long time since the elbow surgery, and the man pitched a full season just last year. He pitched well, too, striking out 201 hitters over 191 innings.
I also get that many pitchers are being told to "pitch to contact", and I think it's a fine thing -- for pitchers without strikeout stuff or perhaps, pitchers with strikeout stuff but big-time control issues. Liriano is neither.
Gardenhire also said, "Balls just seemed to find holes.", which besides being a great straight line for a naughty joke, also is exactly why you shouldn't tell pitchers with strikeout stuff and no serious control issues to pitch to contact. Because sometimes, balls just seem to find holes.
...okay, I'm gonna need a second, here. Breathe, let the giggles pass...alright.
At any rate, if pitchers with stuff like Liriano are being told this, it's gone too far. I get you want to keep his pitch count down, I get that you might believe in the efficacy of your defense to go get the balls after contact -- but I'd love to ask Gardenhire how he thinks Liriano's last start might've been different had he been cut loose to strike out a few more hitters.