Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Liriano's Success Is Tough To Stomach

    On Monday night, Francisco Liriano spun perhaps his most impressive gem in a season that's been full of them. Facing the Padres in San Diego, the lefty hurled seven scoreless innings, striking out 13 and allowing only four hits to pick up his 14th win of the campaign.

    Through 19 starts for Pittsburgh, Liriano holds a 2.53 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 126/47 strikeout-to-walk ratio with only five home runs allowed in 121 innings. He has been, in a word, sensational -- the ace starter for a team that appears headed for the playoffs. His 13 strikeouts on Monday night were six more than any Twins pitcher has tallied in a start this season.

    Meanwhile, a Minnesota team that let him walk after several maddeningly inconsistent seasons remains anchored near the bottom of the standings, with a rotation that continues to be one of the worst in the league while offering little hope for improvement.

    To be sure, there are plenty of ways you can couch this situation so that it doesn't reflect quite so poorly on Twins management. He posted a 5.18 ERA during his final two seasons in Minny, and his production was essentially identical in 12 outings after being traded to the White Sox last year. He continued to hurt his own case with a bizarre offseason injury.

    Of course, as the Twins and their defenders will emphasize, Liriano's success this year has come in the National League, where opposing lineups are less threatening and less familiar with the left-hander's arsenal.

    Still, all of those excuses fall short with me. The NL might be an easier pitching environment but it's still the major leagues, and Liriano's performance doesn't merely look good in contrast to Minnesota's motley crew. We're talking about a Cy Young contender here. He may not be a terribly strong contender due to his late start and the assortment of incredible pitching performances in the Senior Circuit this year, but Liriano leads his league in wins and ranks among the top 10 in K/9 rate, ground ball rate, ERA, xFIP and home run rate.

    Many Twins fans have taken this as another opportunity to lash out at Rick Anderson. I'm not taking that route. Anderson worked hard to straighten out the erratic southpaw and for the most part I think Frankie created his own problems. However, it was always clear from watching Liriano that he had immense talent, and he's still in the middle of his physical prime at 29 years old. Rather than gamble on that ability with minimal risk (the Pirates ended up guaranteeing him only a million dollars on a one-year deal, and now have a fairly cheap option on him for 2014 as well) the Twins chose to take the "safe" approach, going with proven veteran mediocrities like Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey -- signings that have predictably paid no dividends.

    Sure, maybe Liriano would have continued down the same path had he remained in Minnesota. Maybe he wasn't even interested in staying, although it wouldn't have been too difficult to healthily outbid the Bucs. Whichever way you look at the situation, the Twins just don't come out looking good. They either failed repeatedly to help Liriano reach his potential, or screwed up by declining to take a chance on him finding it again despite their utterly desperate need for pitching.

    Whatever the case, with this type of judgment it's not hard to see why the Twins have worked their way into such a pitiful state with their rotation. Developments like this it make it all the more challenging to believe that the current leadership can do what it takes to get things turned around.
    This article was originally published in blog: Liriano's Success Is Tough To Stomach started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 107 Comments
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Liriano has had success before, so its not amazing. Pittsburgh is a good team that is playing well consistently--it's not like Francisco is expected to lead them to victory--just help them. But I say wait until crunch time then judge him.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I vote "The Twins failed repeatedly to help Liriano reach his potential" and I don't think that would have changed resigning him.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Well according to Liriano, his command improved due to changing his arm angle.

      Fastball command sparks Liriano comeback | TribLIVE

      Seems like those kind of adjustments generally fall under the realm of coaches, so yes, I'd say Anderson does deserve some scrutiny for not trying this technique with Liriano while in Minnesota.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Liriano 2010: 3.62 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, 9.44 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 0.42 HR/9, 53.6 GB%
      Liriano 2013: 2.52 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 2.99 xFIP, 9.37 K/9, 3.50 BB/9, 0.37 HR/9, 52.7 GB%

      He's basically having a repeat of his 2010 season, now. I'd say that the big reasons his ERA is more than a run below his 2010 mark are a .287 BABIP (rather than .331 in 2010) and 80.2 LOB% (73.1% in 2010). He's enjoying the benefit of a good Pirates defense (3rd best Defensive Efficiency in the NL) and some luck to support his performance.

      We'll see whether he can keep it up for two or more straight seasons, or if the wild, homer-prone Frankie of 2011-12 will rear up again next year. I tend to doubt that "fixing" him was just as easy as "letting Frankie be Frankie" and encouraging him to throw more sliders (as I've seen suggested elsewhere).
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      Well according to Liriano, his command improved due to changing his arm angle.

      Fastball command sparks Liriano comeback | TribLIVE

      Seems like those kind of adjustments generally fall under the realm of coaches, so yes, I'd say Anderson does deserve some scrutiny for not trying this technique with Liriano while in Minnesota.
      Looks like his slot has even gotten more vertical as the year has gone on.

      At some point he'll have to stop right?
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      It's never that simple as "it's Anderson's". Who know maybe Anderson did the arm angle thing with Liriano? Sometimes when you hear the same voice for years (4+years in this case) you start to tune it out when it's saying something you don't want to hear. Married anyone?
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by frightwig View Post
      He's enjoying the benefit of a good Pirates defense (3rd best Defensive Efficiency in the NL) and some luck to support his performance.
      Interesting sidenote, I was watching Liriano pitch earlier this month and Robby Inkmikowski had a sideline report where he talked about the Pirates changing shifts in the middle of at-bats. They have a second defense against some hitters once they get to two strikes.

      Jeff Banister is the coach in charge of it.
    1. Jdosen's Avatar
      Jdosen -
      I think this is a classic change of scenery scenario, and doubt he would have had the same success back here in MN. And let's not forget the possibility that he just didn't want to come back here any more and wanted a fresh start elsewhere.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      I remember Liriano's real problem was when he got in trouble things multiplied. Often he would sail along inning after inning, but then have one tough inning and the opponents would score 3, 4, or more. It was as if there were were two different guys.
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      ...(the Pirates ended up guaranteeing him only a million dollars on a one-year deal, and now have a fairly cheap option on him for 2014 as well)

      ...it wouldn't have been too difficult to healthily outbid the Bucs.
      This is misleading. When he was originally signed, it was a 2-year/$12.75M deal. (I thought I heard $14M at the time, but I'm probably misremembering.) Then he broke his right arm in a fall around the house, and the Pirates voided and renegotiated the deal.

      Sure, only $1M was guaranteed, but he will earn the rest based on incentives (mainly for not spending more than the anticipated amount of time on the DL with the right arm injury.) If he manages to avoid falling in the bathroom this coming off-season he will probably get the full amount, even if his left arm turns back into a pumpkin. (I'm guessing he will make the incentives this year that vest next years deal at $8M.)

      Article with the details: Y! SPORTS

      So it's not as good a deal for the Pirates as it sounds, but what he has done so far has probably paid for the whole contract already. I was in favor of signing him last off season because I thought it was worth a roll of the dice, even at the amount originally discussed, but it did give me some pause. Instead, we rolled the dice on Correia and Pelfrey, with an upside of two #4/5 starters. We won that bet, I guess, but gambling and winning is a lot less fun when the jackpot is a buck-fifty.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      Well according to Liriano, his command improved due to changing his arm angle.
      His first-pitch strike percentage is up (although not quite as good as in 2010), but it's interesting that meanwhile his total percentage of pitches inside the strike zone is actually at a career low, 38.3%. And while his 3.50 BB/9 is certainly better than the last two years, it's not indicative of suddenly great command, either. It's not much lower than his career mark (3.77), actually.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Liriano could have been signed to a cheap extension last season, which was always the smart move for a team in the Twins situation.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I agree. I think it's a change of scenery. And, it's not like the Twins didn't try to sign Liriano this offseason, but I think we all can understand why they wouldn't have wanted to get in a bidding war for him.

      I'm not the biggest Anderson fan, but I think they tried everything with Liriano to try to spark something. I could argue that they should have let him throw more sliders rather than trying to get him to throw strikes with the fastball, but coming off of Tommy John surgery, I certainly don't blame them for not encouraging a ton of sliders.

      That's why it really doesn't bother me. I'm glad he's doing well, and I hope he keeps it up.
    1. darin617's Avatar
      darin617 -
      Good thing the Twins still have Rick Anderson here to help this pitching staff. Maybe Scott Diamond will be the next pitcher to find success after leaving MN.

      Please Terry Ryan let Gardy's and Rick Anderson's contract expire and don't renew them. One last thing you gotta love how the Pohlad's are making it all Ryan's responsibility for firing Gardy if he chooses to do so. I never knew a GM had so much power over ownership.
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      No Faul Or Blame Assigned. Sometimes It Is A Person Falling Into A Rut And Need A Change Of Scenery. Maybe Lariano Even HAd An Issue We Are Not Aware Of?

      Anyone Know Why Every Word I Type Gets The First Letter Capitalized when I Hit The Spacebar???????
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by OldManWinter View Post

      Anyone Know Why Every Word I Type Gets The First Letter Capitalized when I Hit The Spacebar???????
      Does your smart phone know a trick you don't? Find a 12 year old, they usually know.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      We got Corriea for 5 mil, they got Frankie for 1.....awesome!

      While it stings that he's having success elsewhere and we're stuck with what we have, it's too simplistic to heap the blame on Anderson, he had success under Anderson before, he just couldn't find it the past two years. It never comes down to just one thing, it's usually a combination of them, change of scenery, new competition, change in mechanics, etc..

      I think the largest blame has to go to Ryan for not at least offering up more than the insignificant amount the Bucs signed him for. I mean come on, look at the other crap we ponied up for.
    1. CGNikolic's Avatar
      CGNikolic -
      I agree that no one should get the blame on the Twins side for Liriano's new found success. It hurts to see him do it in a different uniform.. But that fact that he may be unmasking his true potential is pretty awesome. He's always been fun to watch, just most of the time not because he's being successful. If anything, the White Sox should feel the most butt hurt. They have us two (decent? Mediocre?) players for a 1-2 month flyer on Liriano.. And it was ugly. There was no way he was ever going to come back to the Twins anyways. Just was not meant to be any more (as in him finding success here).
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      I believe the Twins did try to sign him in the offseason and Frankie wanted to go elsewhere. Do not blame TR for this one.
    1. Beezer07's Avatar
      Beezer07 -
      I blame Gardy. Why? Just because he seems like an easy target.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.