Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 Pitcher Appraisal: Francisco Liriano




F. LIRIANO (24 Starts)

xFIP | MLB Rank



BABIP | +/- MLB Avg



Runs Support | +/- MLB Avg






Game Score Greater Than 50:



Game Score Less

Than 50:




Average Game Score Per Start:


Season High/Low:

74 (8/12)

13 (8/17)


Game Scores over 90:


Game Scores 80-89:


Game Scores 70-79:


Game Scores 60-69:


Game Scores Below 40:



Record of Opposing Batters:

.279/.361/.469 (830 OPS)

Offensive Equivalent:

Carlos Lee


It is hard to harp on a thing like “run support” (which was 20 percent lower than the league average) when he served up more runs than most South of the Border eateries, but even so, Liriano was hosed out of four wins in 2009.  He could have been 9-13.  There.  That’s the end of the positivity for now.


In just under half of his 24 starts (11), Liriano made a huge-antic (a combination of huge and gigantic) mess out of the game, seemingly putting the Twins further in debt every time he chucked the ball towards home plate.  What gives?   Like the pitching version of Jason Lewis, righties simply loved him.  In his return to the mound in 2008, right-handed batters demonstrated little advantage over him (745 OPS).  One year later, the right-handed nation was launching moonshots off him, responsible for 20 of his 21 HR allowed and raising their OPS to 899.  

Back in June, I noted that he was pitching differently to hitters depending on which batter’s box they were in. The Twins' lefty slides down the rubber towards the third base line when facing right-handed batters in efforts to run the fastball inside, however, he releases it with less of a more vertical of an arm angle which results in a flatter pitch often finishing in the fat part of the zone, above the waist.  With the decrease in velocity from 2006 (from 94.6-mph down to 91-mph) Liriano's location combined with lack of movement (not to mention the regularity of being behind in the count) led to some hard hit balls off for right-handed bats. 

In general, his slider still had bite.  Over 40 percent of swings in '09 resulted in a miss (just down from 48 percent in '06) indicating that the is enough break to incite plenty of awkward swings - even after the Tommy John surgery.  However, like the fastball, it was thrown at a reduced velocity from his breakout year in '06.  Also like the fastball, Liriano demonstrated that he had trouble placing it within the strike zone this past season.  As opposed to '06 where he threw the slider in the zone almost half of the time, Liriano threw the slider in the zone less than 40 percent of the time, eroding the effectiveness of the break.  Hitters, particularly right-handed ones, eventually figured out he was unable to throw the slider for a strike and held back waiting for the fastball (NOW WITH 5% LESS HEAT!). 
The haphazard command led to better counts for opponents or a walk.  His control problems led to the AL's second highest walk rate (4.28 BB/9) trailing only the Yankees Joba Camberlain with pitchers who had thrown a minimum of 130 innings.  Even so, and this might be a hard pill to swallow in context to his 5-13 record, the heaping ton of walks and a 5.80 ERA but setting aside those facts, Liriano had a decent season when it comes to projecting talent:  
  • Liriano's strikeout rate (8.03 K/9) was good enough for eighth in the AL - this is an unsurprising revelation given that his 20 percent swinging strike total was the highest in the league. 
  • His .324 batting average on balls in play was the seventh highest in the AL and well above the league average of .300.  Where he suffered the most was on groundballs.  As the rest of the league's pitchers held Defensive Efficiency Ratio of .760 on grounders, Liriano was given a DER of .694 - meaning more bouncers slipped through the infield than the norm. 
  • His 66.3 percent left-on-base rate was the well-below the average of 71.0 percent and sixth-highest in the AL.  As this equalizes next season, the ERA will drop with it.   
The injuries and slow-to-return control (always the last thing pitcher's regain after undergoing TJ) helped make an unfortunate season his worst, yet, there is plenty of evidence Liriano could be a boon to the rotation in 2010.