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  • Twins interested in a Francisco Liriano reunion

    Is Liriano headed back to the Twins?The Star Tribuneís LaVelle Neal reported yesterday that the Twins officials have been in contact with Francisco Lirianoís representatives and will meet next week in Nashville during the winter meetings.

    To many Twins fans, the news probably inspired a palm to the face followed by a head to the desk. After all, Liriano has been as bad of a starter in the past two seasons not named Nick Blackburn -- another reason to repeat the face-palm and head-desk combination.


    Since his mini-rebound in 2010, Liriano has turned in a bloated 5.23 ERA (sixth highest in that time) and has walked 12.6% of batters faced (second most in MLB). His inability to control the strike zone has resulted in the overabundance of baserunners and subsequent runs scored (hence the ERA and walk rate).

    Pitchers need to work ahead and throw a high percentage of strikes in order to maintain success at the major league level. High walk rates mean quick-rising pitch counts and early showers which means more strain on the bullpen and stress on the managerís heart. Liriano, however, has been baseballís biggest culprit of digging himself into a hole the past two years. According to Fangraphs.comís pitch data, his 51.7% first-pitch strike rate is the lowest in baseball.

    It should be elementary but this was a very significant factor for Liriano has when he fell behind, opponents were able to reach base in a myriad of ways, in almost 50% of those instances (.498 on-base percentage when batters ahead versus .467 MLB-average). In comparison, when he was able to get ahead of opponents, he was able to retire them at a rate higher than the baseball norm (.186 on-base percentage versus .211 MLB-average).

    In terms of raw stuff, Liriano has been one of the best in the game. His slider has been able to make the smartest of hitters look completely stupid once it begins to descend the other direction. Thanks to good velocity and tilt, he is able to achieve plenty of swing-and-misses (23% in 2012) on the slider but it is a pitch best used when he is ahead in the count. Falling behind more frequently in 2012 translated into more two-seam fastballs (titled ďSinkerĒ in this chart) says BrooksBaseball.net:


    Lirianoís two-seam was one of the reasons he was his own worst enemy the past two years. In 2010, Liriano, not showing exemplary command of the pitch, managed to throw it in the zone over 52% of the time. The past two years, that rate has dropped to below 50% -- 46% in 2012 -- meaning that every other fastball was not in the strike zone. Hitters may be fooled by sharp breaking pitches darting out of the zone but a fastball isnít going to get them to bite as regularly. As such, after a season of recognizing this tendency to miss the zone, hitters kept the bat on their shoulders more frequently (36% swing rate in Ď12 versus 44% in Ď10) and strayed after fewer out of zone fastballs (20% in Ď12 versus 25% in Ď10). The end result was a grand total of 52 walks on the pitch in 2012 compared to just 27 in 2010.

    A reunion with former pitching coach, Bobby Cuellar, who was recently promoted to bullpen coach by the Twins, may be the right combination to get Lirianoís game back on track. After all, it was Cuellar who had worked with Liriano on refining his mechanics which allowed him to throw more strikes -- currently his most notable flaw.

    Of course, a pessimist would argue that Cuellar has not exactly pumped out any other pitchers like Liriano or Johan Santana since his return to the organization since 2007. This past year, Nick Blackburn was sent to Rochester and Cuellar was instructed to fix whatever was wrong. After several successful outings in AAA, Blackburn was recalled and proceeded to crank out a turd of start after another over his final 12 starts. Whatever knowledge was bestowed upon Liriano and Santana did not sink in with Blackburn.

    Whatís more is that Liriano was already suppose to be fix by White Sox pitching guru Don Cooper, who the careers of Gavin Floyd, Jose Contreras, Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton have been improved because of his instructions. While it was just two months of mentorship, Cooper, who said that he knew what was wrong with the lefty, did little to set Liriano straight (he actually fell behind in the count more while in Chicago). In fact, when he started to careen off kilter, Cooper told reporters that it was more mental than physical, something the Twins had been saying all along:

    "He's trying for corners," Cooper said. "He's picking. He's thinking more physical, and there's some matador in him. There's some, 'I don't want you to hit it.' We've got to get him to grasp the first part of the plan ó which is get strike one, get to 0-2, 1-2. Make them hit the first, second or third (pitch).

    "Our point of emphasis has to be the first three pitches to get to that position. And that's what he's not getting to enough. And he's putting himself in a lot of danger."
    If the legendary Cooper cannot fix what ails Liriano, how is Cuellar going to resuscitate his career?

    Video does show that Liriano has some changes to his delivery from the 2010 season and a big part of that is keeping it consistent. In 2011, he was not extending the same as he did in 2010 which changed his release point. Early on in 2012, it was falling away to the third base side with every pitch and causing some arm slot issues. Can Cuellar perform the same magic as he did almost a decade ago in New Britain?

    Ultimately, if the Twins believe working with Cuellar can positively influence Liriano, somehow coaxing the 2010 success out of him, then a one-year gamble with the expectation that he is a back-of-the-rotation arm would be as good of a move as signing potential injury risks of the likes of Brandon McCarthy, Scott Baker or Scott Feldman.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins interested in a Francisco Liriano reunion started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      It would be a terrible decision to bring Liriano back, unless he was the third best pitcher signed by the Twins. That is not going to happen.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      It would be a terrible decision to bring Liriano back, unless he was the third best pitcher signed by the Twins. That is not going to happen.
      If they sign one more free agent and trade Span for another leaving Liriano to be a 3-4-5 starter, I can't see why not -- particularly given the dwindling list of alternatives.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      IALTO coming
    1. Ex-Iowegian's Avatar
      Ex-Iowegian -
      I don't get it. How many times does Liriano have to show that he is not 'fixable', before people stop thinking that he can return to 2006 form or even sniff what he was in 2010? He is comparable to DeVries, or Hendricks at this point. 3rd or 4th starter at best. Is it worth the down-side?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      It would be a terrible decision to bring Liriano back, unless he was the third best pitcher signed by the Twins. That is not going to happen.
      If they sign one more free agent and trade Span for another leaving Liriano to be a 3-4-5 starter, I can't see why not -- particularly given the dwindling list of alternatives.
      This is my thinking as well. Three (good) pitchers aren't going to come from FA. The Twins are going to have to trade for someone to bring in three new arms that are more than rotation filler.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      So the Twins are looking at Brett Myers and Liriano to go with Scott Diamond. I like that they are all different Myers and Diamond are the soft tossers right and left handed respectively and Liriano is more power. now how much will they cost?

      Myers 3 years 9-10 million per season
      Liriano 1 year 6 million with incentives? or will he get more years?

      Lastly who will the Twins trade for?
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      One last ? how much will Jurgens from atlanta get once he gets nontendered?
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      So the Twins are looking at Brett Myers and Liriano to go with Scott Diamond. I like that they are all different Myers and Diamond are the soft tossers right and left handed respectively and Liriano is more power. now how much will they cost?

      Myers 3 years 9-10 million per season
      Liriano 1 year 6 million with incentives? or will he get more years?

      Lastly who will the Twins trade for?
      I could live with Myers OR Liriano, whichever will sign first for under 5M a year. Either one for 4-5M is preferable to signing Marquis for 3M. If Feldman is worth 6M, I'm not sure that will happen. Going on the premise that seems to be the prevailing opinion, that the Twins sign two FA and trade for one other pitcher, one of the two FA has to be better than that pair. If they sign both, the trade better be for a #1 or #2.
    1. SgtSchmidt11's Avatar
      SgtSchmidt11 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      So the Twins are looking at Brett Myers and Liriano to go with Scott Diamond. I like that they are all different Myers and Diamond are the soft tossers right and left handed respectively and Liriano is more power. now how much will they cost?

      Myers 3 years 9-10 million per season
      Liriano 1 year 6 million with incentives? or will he get more years?

      Lastly who will the Twins trade for?
      Myers at 9-10 mil. per season? I was thinking more like 3/9-10 overall....
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      This is what results when Plan A (sign Baker) doesn't work.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      He might be the third best pitcher the Twins can afford. I wouldn't be too bothered by this if A. They also acquire a front-line guy. B. He's the third best pitcher the Twins acquire. and C. He's cheap.

      Ryan has said he wants to acquire three guys, two of whom would be top 2 starters. I know there's a lot of skepticism that he can (or is willing to) get this done. But it's not that unrealistic. If they use Willy and/or Span to acquire one and use most of the remaining dough on a FA like Myers, they still might have some money left over for a Liriano signing. Stop laughing Gleeman. It could happen.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by SgtSchmidt11 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      So the Twins are looking at Brett Myers and Liriano to go with Scott Diamond. I like that they are all different Myers and Diamond are the soft tossers right and left handed respectively and Liriano is more power. now how much will they cost?

      Myers 3 years 9-10 million per season
      Liriano 1 year 6 million with incentives? or will he get more years?

      Lastly who will the Twins trade for?
      Myers at 9-10 mil. per season? I was thinking more like 3/9-10 overall....
      No one will give him a 3 year deal worth 9-10 million, that's for sure
    1. Craig in MN's Avatar
      Craig in MN -
      I'd rather have Liriano than Myers or Pavano or a bunch of other guys. I don't think there's any risk of Liriano being one of the next 5 starters to sign, or even one of the next 10, so talking to his agent isn't a big deal, as one of a bunch of backup options.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Myers will get 1 year.

      If they sign: Marcum, Liriano, and Jurrgens that could be a nice start to free agency. Maybe you can even trade Span for a good pitching prospect as well.
    1. MrHockey's Avatar
      MrHockey -
      Can't we all get into a time machine and fast forward to 2015? This losing/no hope/watching our "Money Ball" coaching staff (the ones that don't get it) is painful and then having Carl's kids being as parsimonious as pa is almost too much.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I would assume Ryan talking to Liriano's agent is more or less in the category of "leaving no stone unturned". That doesn't mean they wouldn't offer Liriano a contract, just that it would likely take place after most of the rotation is in place. It would also likely mean a very reasonable contract, likely in the Marquis area. At this point it would be hard for me to see anyone offering Liriano more than $3-4 million. Maybe plus incentives.

      These type of stories usually come from agents. They are trying to show teams that there is interest in their guy. Personally, I am not particularly excited about bringing Liriano back. He can't manage his mechanics, he hasn't learned how to pitch, and I think somewhere in his head he thinks that it will be 2006 again with the high 90's fastball and the unhitable slider. If he does come back to the Twins, I hope Parker is right, and Cuellar can work some magic with him.
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ex-Iowegian View Post
      How many times does Liriano have to show that he is not 'fixable'...?
      I'm not convinced yet. I like the idea, as long as it's for a reasonable price.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Alternatives are still out there. I am not sure what the damn panic is AT ALL. I would definitely like the Twins to wait before making such a decision to bring back a washed-up headcase who has has been bad/injured for 4 out of 7 seasons in his career. Imagine the craziness in being concerned about that!!!
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      C'mon be honest, we're ok settling for this? Everybody here wanted him on the first train out of town this summer but now we're alright with him being back because, why? Because the Cubs signed Baker and Feldman? This is what is making things so urgent?

      I'd rather find out if someone else sucks than be sure of it with Frankie.
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