Monday, April 13, 2009

On The Myth of Successfully "Pitching to Contact."

Ever since the ill-fated signing of Jeff Suppan in December 2006, I've heard, incessantly, about "pitching to contact." In a word or two, "pitching to contact" is a philosophy espoused by noodle-armed pitchers whose fastball, breaking ball, and change-up are indistinguishable (i.e., each trickles up to the plate at about 83 mph and moves very little, if at all). When confronted by the facts that (1) the pitcher struggles to break 100 strikeouts in a 30-start season, and (2) has a WHIP flirting with 1.6, the pitcher will respond: "Well, I pitch to contact," as if those words somehow disinfect his putrid stat line.

Now, I'm not here to debate the merits of other "pitch to contact" pitchers ... mostly because I can't think of another "pitch to contact" guy who's had any success, other than maybe Jamie Moyer. If you're going to be a big league pitcher, you have to be able to strike batters out. Period.

(And let's get this out of the way right now: don't suggest that Greg Maddux was a "pitch to contact" guy who had great success. Greg Maddux didn't pitch to contact; he was just a really fucking great pitcher. He averaged 154 strikeouts per season in his career, and, in his prime, he was always in the 175-200 range. Yes, he could make a batter get himself out with a well-placed cutter or change-up. But he could also get a big K when he needed it.)

So I'm going to request a moratorium on this whole "pitching to contact is a good way to pitch" nonsense. Fuck that noise -- if you insist on "pitching to contact," I'm going to insist that you do so in the goddamn Pacific Coast League.

And one final note: I recognize that all of this is probably an academic discussion, since our purported "pitch to contact" guy CAN'T EVEN MANAGE TO THROW THE BALL OVER THE FUCKING PLATE ANYMORE. Seriously -- I've lived through this experience once before. The experience had a name: Glendon Rusch. Please don't make me do this again.


Reid You Animal! said...

The question here really is, "How long of a leash does Suppan get?" Guys making 12.5 million don't go to AAA to "work the kinks out". I say he gets at least 6 starts this year. I'm not advocating for that, but I believe he'll get it. He'll probably throw in one decent outing just to prolong the experience somewhere along the line.

For a guy whose MO is supposed to be "Keeping his team in the game", this is especially bad. The offense has scored 6 and 5 runs in each of his starts respectively. Not only did he not keep them in the game enough for those runs to matter, he essentially dicked them over before they even got out of the gate. I dunno man, I know it's early but this is really not good.

Rubie Q said...

The thing that has always pissed me off is when you put your team in an early hole, your guys battle back to tie it or take the lead, and then you give the runs right back. Soup did that TWICE against the Giants. That's an absolute killer.

And I'm with you, Reid: I'm fully expecting an eight-inning, three-hit performance against the Pirates or 'Stros that fools people into thinking Soup's turned the corner.

To paraphrase George Bluth: Look, Soup is ... he's just a turd out there, you know? He can't pitch, and he can't run, you know? He's just a turd.

EMoney said...

It's obvious to point out how horrendous JEFF SUPPAN is, and how much of a waste he is for the entire organization. However, even IF they decided to yank Suppan and send him to the bullpen or AAA, what do we do to replace him? It's not like we have a plethora of good staring pitching waiting to be utilized. We don't even have good middle relief pitching. Let's face it, the Crew is up sh*t creek without a paddle. I rescind my pre-season prediction......again. 74-88.....our pitching staff is worse than expected.

Reid You Animal! said...

It's not like anyone expected Suppan to pitch like a superstar. Hell we don't even really need him to pitch all that well. All we really need is for Soup to be serviceable. Right now he's not even doing that. On the bright side, the jump from shitty to serviceable is made much more easily than the jump from shitty to superstar. So maybe he can right the ship here.

Devil's Threesome said...

10-10 4.80 ERA. That would be glorious from Soup. Alas, that is "unpossible" as Raplh Wiggum would say.

It's only 6 games so we all need to take a breath, but still, the pitching looks atrocious. I like to talk about player ceilings a lot and there are some low, low ceilings for the pitching staff.

Yo - high, high ceiling in theory, but he has never pitched a full year and how will he respond if/when he is forced to carry the whole load. Plus, he's injury prone.

Bush - Bush is what he is, a decent #4 or #5 starter. He's your classic Charlie Liebrandt. Occasionally pitch a great game, but have quite a few clunkers. Again, solid for a #4 or #5. Unfortunately, he's our 2nd best pitcher. Also, he seems to be a slight headcase - look at that beard.

Parra - His ceiling is a #2 or #3 starter, but that's likely a couple of years away. He could have a very good year considering he has already gone through one full year in the majors. Unfortunately, his stuff isn't electric and he is a major head case.

Suppan - winding down a very mediocre career, highlighted by two effective starts in an NLCS where he was aided by 1) the Mets being the Mets and 2) terrible weather. I won't beat him up any more

Looper - another retread #4 or #5 starter. At least he wields a solid stick.

In summary, right now we have the following rotation:
Yo - weak #2
Bush - #4/5
Parra - weak #3
Looper - #4/5
Suppan - AAA

One final thought to scare you - where would Yo pitch in Chicago's rotation? It's currently Big Z, Dempster, Lilly, and Harden. I'd put him over Lilly at #4.

EMoney said...

Sorry Reid, but using serviceable as a requirement for our #2-#3 starting pitcher is kind of a joke imo. I think that due to the loss of our top 2 starters, the fact that he is our veteran starter and is also by far the highest paid, that he needs to step up and earn his 12 mil. It's not gonna happen, but he should have that mind set.

And define serviceable. Is it an era less than 5.00? 4.00??? Right now the Crew has surrendered 36 runs in the first six games...for a clip of 6 runs/game. On the flip side, the Crew has only scored 25 runs over six for an average of 4.2 runs per game. I don't know how many rpg we averaged last year, but I suspect it was ~5 rpg. So considering Soup is roughly a career 4.50-5.00 era guy, this means that unless the Crew magically increases their scoring output (ie. Corey Hart puts the ball in play more than 50% of the time, and Jason Kendall gets A hit this year), we will likely hover right around the .500 mark when Soup takes the hill. A .500 mark from our #2 starter!

I'm sorry I'm such an a*hole, but I have no faith this year.