Friday, February 17, 2012

Will Francisco Liriano rebound in 2012?

Without a doubt, there will be plenty of storylines to monitor during spring training this year. One of the bigger ones that you should keep an eye on in Fort Myers is Francisco Liriano’s fastball.
Injuries took him out of the 2011 season but it was clear that the southpaw was not the same pitcher as he was the season before. Between a decrease in velocity, an inability to locate his fastball and regularly falling behind his opponents, Liriano posted a career high in walks (75) and his second-worst ERA of his career (5.09). Perhaps a bit predictably based upon his delivery and past history, he succumbed to injuries midway through last season and missed a significant amount of time. Suddenly, not signing Liriano to a long-term deal became one of Bill Smith’s finest moves as a GM.
For his part, Liriano, who was admonished for not following through with offseason workouts before last season, opted to participate in winter ball – the same platform that helped him regain his form two seasons ago. Unfortunately, the results were not quite as enticing this year as they were in the past. He threw 24.2 innings and posted a 25/16 K/BB ratio in winter ball. This outcome was a distant cry from his 2009 winter league performance in which he reintroduced himself to baseball as one of the more filthy pitchers in baseball. That year in 20 innings  Liriano posted a 30/5 K/BB ratio on his way to becoming one of the Twins more dominating starters in the 2010 regular season.
Admittedly, each pitch thrown between November and April means very little in the grand scheme yet the signs are not wholly positive at this juncture. What can Liriano do to become the pitcher the Twins so desperately need in 2012?
There’s no question that he still has the nasty slider that can catapult him towards being a Cy Young-caliber pitcher, however, as I detailed following Liriano’s first outing this offseason in the Dominican, the main question is whether he can command his fastball.
According to’s pitch f/x data, Liriano’s fastball was vastly different from the 2010 predecessor:

Liriano’s Fastballs (2010 vs 2011)

Called Strike
2010 Four-Seamer
2010 Two-Seamer
2011 Four-Seamer
2011 Two-Seamer
In addition to the decrease in velocity, notice the sharp decline in the amount of called strikes with his two-seamed fastball. This is the pitch he uses most often against right-handed opponents. This may explain why his walk rate when facing righties jumped from 8.5% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2011. Having scouted a couple of Liriano’s outings in the Dominican, you can see that he was still struggling to place the pitch in the Caribbean – specifically his two-seamed fastball against right-handers.
Outside of Scott Baker, the Twins have little in their rotation of being an elite pitcher. In order to reach that echelon which the team so desperately needs, Liriano, besides being healthy, needs to see an improved fastball in 2012. 


TT said...

Liriano can't "rebound" because he has never been an elite pitcher except in the imagination of some Twins fans. You need to consistently get 200+ innings to even be considered. Liriano's only year with more than 140 was 2010 when he pitched 191 innings. And he was hardly dominant even then.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Twins Fan c.1981 said...

Liriano's only year with more than 140 was 2010 when he pitched 191 innings. And he was hardly dominant even then.

All depends on what your qualifications for "dominant" are. To me, that's finishing the season in the top ten in the league for K/BB ratio while holding the league's third highest K% AND allowing the third fewest HRs. That's pretty dominating.

Rebounding to that form is what the Twins need.

Anonymous said...

third highest K%

Blogger baiting the troll, that's a change

TT said...

"That's pretty dominating."

It may be, if by dominant you only consider strikeouts. But not when he also walked 58 batters and gave up 184 hits with an ERA of 3.62 and WHIP of 1.263 while getting less than 200 IP.

"Rebounding to that form is what the Twins need."

I agree. If Liriano pitches as well as he did in 2010, that would be fine. But lets hope that wouldn't make him the staff "ace".

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