• 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. iastfan112's Avatar
      iastfan112 -
      I do blame Anderson at least partially, its not as if Liriano has suddenly found better control, his zone % is actually down again this year its that he's been relying on his fastball. His slider is nasty whereas his fastball is highly erratic. It really seems as if the Twins/Anderson had a hard time letting him pitch in an unorthodox manner compared to the conventional wisdom of using the fastball to set up the slider.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      I know Liriano could be a train wreck at times but why would an organization in dire need of pitching let their most talented pitcher walk? Best wishes to Liriano, I'll always be a fan of his.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      I'm happy for him and Pittsburgh. Fun story.

      It will be interesting to see if he can continue to dominate down the stretch and in the playoffs and back it up next season. As mentioned, he has had stretches like this before.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by darin617 View Post
      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.
      Isn't that exactly what the GM is there for? If I'm an owner without a baseball background, I would think the last thing I should be doing is mucking around with baseball decisions, one of which is baseball staffing and personnel moves. My "job" is to hire a good GM to make those decisions and then make the GM accountable to me.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So when people say "show me Twins that have left, and then we can judge the coaches" Liriano deosn't count? How about Lohse, does he count? Do only guys that don't get better count? I'm not sure how this works.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      So when people say "show me Twins that have left, and then we can judge the coaches" Liriano deosn't count? How about Lohse, does he count? Do only guys that don't get better count? I'm not sure how this works.
      It works both ways Mike. You'd be right in questioning any unflattering conclusion drawn from a few examples like Lohse or Liriano, just like you'd be right drawing the opposite conclusion from examples like Fien or Deduno.

      Are you in the camp of resisting coming to conclusions from examples both favorable AND unfavorable?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Not at all, I've pointed out where the Twins have done well also....but this whole thread is people saying we can't judge Anderson with this info....so I am asking, when I can I judge anderson. We are talking about Anderson and Liriano, and players that have left.....not every single thing Anderson has ever done.

      You sure Deduno has actually improved, the more he's been in the majors? I'm not, not yet.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Not at all, I've pointed out where the Twins have done well also....but this whole thread is people saying we can't judge Anderson with this info....so I am asking, when I can I judge anderson. We are talking about Anderson and Liriano, and players that have left.....not every single thing Anderson has ever done.

      You sure Deduno has actually improved, the more he's been in the majors? I'm not, not yet.
      You and I can't credibly judge any of these coaches or managers. To do so in the face of our pathetic level of information and expertise smacks of arrogance.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Deduno? All I know is he's been pitching in the majors and he wasn't before, so he appears to have improved.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Then don't comment on a thread where that is the topic. Then don't comment on anything, I guess. This whole board is about commenting on stuff we don't have enough information to be more than 60% sure of our thoughts (or 10%, take your pick).

      I never get those comments, that state that the entire purpose of the site is silly......don't come into these threads if you don't want to comment on them, or read others' comments.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Then don't comment on a thread where that is the topic. Then don't comment on anything, I guess. This whole board is about commenting on stuff we don't have enough information to be more than 60% sure of our thoughts (or 10%, take your pick).



      I never get those comments, that state that the entire purpose of the site is silly......don't come into these threads if you don't want to comment on them, or read others' comments.
      What's silly is this notion, mike. Lots of comments here are completely credible and valid, including many of your own. For example, you commented that the Twins have a long way to go before pitching talent rises to the upper levels. Valid, credible, and supportable.
    1. SpitefulRabbit617's Avatar
      SpitefulRabbit617 -
      Blame it on the National League. **BLAME IT ON THE BOSSA NOVA**
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      then if it frustrates you so much, don't go into threads where the entire purpose is to discuss things we don't know anything about. You will be happier, it's what I do.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by gil4 View Post
      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.
      This is true, but even the original deal was a mere 2-3 million more than the Twins paid lousy Kevin Correia, and it's well documented that they had plenty of additional financial flexibility during the offseason, so I stand by my statement that they could have easily outbid the Pirates by a healthy amount if they wanted to. My sense is that they didn't have much interest in bringing him back at all, regardless of sound bytes.

      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.
      That may be the case. But how many other players have we heard the same refrain about? And how long are we going to have to keep hearing it? Liriano was a player who came into the majors through this organization, who Twins coaches have worked with extensively over the years, and who is still under 30 years old. This is a guy the Twins should have been able to keep if they wanted. An extension during last season would have probably gotten the job done (though that would have robbed us of the great Pedro Hernandez and Eduardo Escobar).
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The Liriano story will become a Twins myth, so to speak, like the Ortiz story.

      Ortiz got too expensive. He was hurt. Yes, maybe he didn't see eye-to-eye with the Twins Way and coaching. The Twins had to cut him loose unless they felt the desire to pay more than they thought he was worth at the time. ALL the other teams except Boston passed on him. He signed for a salary that the Twins themselves would've been happy to pay, but you can't cut a salary that low to a player back then according to union rules and regs.

      Liriano was fighting the Twins Way. Time will tell if he is putting unnecessary strain on his arm to get him a continued great contract next season. The Twins would not have been able to resign Liriano. Even for what Pittsburgh ended up paying him this season (remember, alot of other teams passed on giving him any sort of contract, Pittsburgh seemed nuts with their initial offer but ended up getting a steal because Liriano ended up being...Liriano). I would argue that there was too much bad blood happening with the Twins, that there was no way Liriano was going to be a Twins lifer. He had to get out. He had to go somewhere. The Twins actually got something for him. Better than having him add absolutely nothing to a losing season and walking. Escobar and Hernandez might actually be capable backups for another season or two. Maybe one will shine and get flipped for another prospect or two and something will come of that.

      These days it is all about money. How much a team will pay. How much a player wants. And do either really need each other. We'll probably see it happen with Morneau...the Twins lowballing a player again and him signing elsewhere for a competitive contract that the Twins could match. We saw it in Nathan...why do I have to ask the Twins to match something someone offered me. We saw it in Cuddyer, who held out ad got what he was seeking and the Twins seemed happy getting a lower priced alternative. We saw it in Kubel who was low-balled by the Twins for a one-year contract and ended up with a respectible multi-year deal.

      Stop complaining about Liriano (and still Ortiz). We got nothing for Nathan, Kubel, Cuddyer...no Escobar, no Hernandez, no additional year of Lecroy as DH and third-string catcher. The reality is that a team has to strike early and wrap up a player (and then we get Mays and Blackburn and Silva) or play it loose and take the risk of the walk.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      "I agree that no one should get the blame on the Twins side......"

      This seems to be the mantra of the front office, coaching staff and loyalists. Nobody is to blame for the last 3 years of sucktitude. Nobody is to blame for many players leaving and having greater success elsewhere. Nobody is to blame for no playoff wins in 9 years.
      It can't be anyones fault, sh** happens.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by CGNikolic View Post
      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).
      Terrible MLB players. The White Sox cleared 40-man roster space by pawning off two AAAA players on a division rival. These two guys are still clogging up the Twins 40-man which is going to have some tough decisions coming up.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      "I agree that no one should get the blame on the Twins side......"

      This seems to be the mantra of the front office, coaching staff and loyalists. Nobody is to blame for the last 3 years of sucktitude. Nobody is to blame for many players leaving and having greater success elsewhere. Nobody is to blame for no playoff wins in 9 years.
      It can't be anyones fault, sh** happens.
      When you put it that way, we as fans have actually let the Twins down.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      When a story like this becomes recurring, to me, it represents a drastic problem with those perpetrating the current "Twins Way". All of them. Over the last decade or so, there are several stories like this, and the players themselves have takes that support there was a problem with the way they were treated, and their performance blossomed when relieved of the "way".
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by CGNikolic View Post
      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).
      I thought there was a chance because Bobby Cuellar moved up from Rochester to be the Twins' bullpen coach. I have vague recollections of Cuellar receiving credit for some of Liriano's early success, and it seems like I've periodically heard that they worked well together. I was hoping the Twins would re-sign him and Cuellar wiould help him turn back into the 2010 Liriano (or better.)
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