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  • Shaky Control Puts Liriano on Shaky Ground

    Francisco Liriano was tagged with a loss Sunday as he allowed five runs over five innings, handing out four walks while throwing just 47 of 86 pitches for strikes.

    It qualified as his best start of the season.

    Through four turns, Liriano sits with an 11.02 ERA, 2.28 WHIP and 12-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16 2/3 innings. Only 57 percent of his pitches are finding the zone, which is the same rate he finished with in 2011. He was being counted on this year to rebound and lead the rotation, but instead he's been its biggest problem.

    Given that he's shown no meaningful signs of improvement over these first four starts, the Twins are undoubtedly taking a look at their options. I've been one of Liriano's staunchest defenders, but even I wouldn't fault the team for bumping him to the bullpen until he figures out how to throw strikes.

    The left-hander seems oddly ambivalent about the situation, considering how much it impacts his livelihood. Pitching his way out of the rotation in the season preceding his first foray into free agency? He stands to cost himself many millions. It's a tough thing for the Twins to have to do, but his abysmal performance is giving them little choice but to consider making a move.

    This is hardly an ideal situation for the club. Their starting pitching depth is already stretched thin with Scott Baker gone for the year, and while Anthony Swarzak has been relatively effect as a swing man, that's the role he's best suited for and his outing last week against the Yankees was an example of why he shouldn't be starting regularly. Brian Duensing and Matt Maloney, like Swarzak, are pitchers with a history of starting who are better suited for relief roles.

    You could make a case that Scott Diamond is banging on the door in Triple-A, as he's 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA and 18-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 1/3 innings over his first four starts in Rochester. Of course, the 25-year-old Diamond was also one of the Twins' early cuts in spring training after pitching quite poorly in big-league stints last year.

    People shouldn't get overly worked up over four good Triple-A starts from the lefty. He's putting up essentially the same peripherals now as he did last year, when he went 4-14 with a 5.56 ERA for Rochester. He has stranded over 90 percent of base runners up to this point, which is beyond unsustainable. If called up, Diamond won't fool many hitters, but he'll at least throw strikes and might be able to hold his own thanks to a solid grounder rate.

    A complete turnaround from Liriano might be the only way for the Twins to climb into contention, because they're destined to wallow in mediocrity with a rotation full of soft-tossing contact pitchers, but it's hard to hold out hope for such a reversal from Frankie when he's looking every bit as bad as he did for basically the entire 2011 season.

    At this point, replacing him with a guy who has "No. 5 starter" written all over him is beginning to look like a palatable option. That's bad news for the Twins, and it's worse news for Liriano's bank account.
    This article was originally published in blog: Shaky Control Puts Liriano on Shaky Ground started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Land Of 10,000 Beasts's Avatar
      Land Of 10,000 Beasts -
      I'm starting to think that he will be gonzo by the trading deadline. However, his trade value is so low we would get jack squat, just like the Kevin Slowey trade.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      I bet Don Cooper wouldn't mind a chance to help Liriano work out his problems.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Liriano's problems start right at the beginning of his motion. Sadly, the beginning of each pitch looks a little different, so the result is unpredictable.

      I've heard Uncle Bert talk about coming to a balance point. Liriano needs to do that consistently, with consistent rhythm. Right now, his rhythm sucks.

      Maybe he needs to listen to some funky reggae.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Liriano is easily the biggest disappointment of 2012 so far. And that's saying a bit on a team that is on pace to lose over 100 games.

      I, too, have been an advocate of letting Liriano find himself. I even thought the Twins should have extended him over the winter. But at this point, I can't see any reason why he shouldn't at least skip at start, at worst lose his spot in the rotation.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Here's something I noticed: 1st time through the order he allowed 3 BB and a HBP (.444 OBP) with 1 K and only 16 of 37 pitches for strikes (43%). Over the next 13 PA he allowed 3 H and 1 BB (.308 OBP) with 3 K and 31 of 49 pitches for strikes (63%). He started 8 of those 13 PA with strike one. The HR was a cookie, but the single was a grounder through the left side and Longoria's double off the catwalk might just have been a can of corn in another park. I think they should have sent him back out there for the 6th.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      One word - hypnotism. Give him confidence and consistency. He claims he wants to do whatever is best for him and the team. What wuld be best for him and the team at this point would be to go back to Rochester for a few weeks work.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      His mechanics are all over the place right now and he has long stretches where he's just a mess on the mound. If he's willing to do it, a little time down in AAA to get things straightened out would probably be just the ticket.

      Scott Diamond doesn't have the upside of a Liriano, but he's more likely to give quality starts right now. I disagree that the peripherals on him are the same as last year; the K rate is the same, but the walks are down, the hits are down, and he's keeping the ball in the park better right now. It's a small sample size, so I'm not going to pretend that he's going to be some savior. But Liriano is spiraling out of control and I'm not sure he's going to correct the problem in MLB. Diamond could provide a little better consistency for a team that should be able to score enough runs for him.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      The options that I see are:

      Liriano starting with the Twins, Maloney relieving with the Twins, Diamond starting for the Red Wings
      or
      Liriano relieving for the Twins, Maloney starting/relieving for the Red Wings (if he clears waivers), and Diamond starting for the Twins
      or
      some combination where Liriano is starting for the Red Wings


      I really think the best option is the second one. Diamond can perform like a 4th or 5t starter whereas Liriano cannot. I think Liriano can get it back as a reliever, maybe to become setup man or closer for 2013 (Twins or elsewhere). Liriano was dominant as a reliever in 2006 and gained his confidence as a big-league pitcher then. He needs that again.
    1. mrkwx's Avatar
      mrkwx -
      You have been one of Liriano's staunchest defenders, and I've been basically the opposite. I've always wished you were right, though. And I still hope he can find his way somehow. Although the best thing right now might be to get him out of the pressure situation of starting for the Twins and let him work on his mechanics in another role.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      As I have said in other posts in Twins Daily...move Liriano to the pen...he can give us a great 1 or 2 innings coming on in the 7th. If he finds his stuff, Liriano could be our closer in 2013...a role he is more suited for than starting and when we are a contending team we need a closer better than Craps.
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -
      If Liriano stays in the rotation, he could threaten for THE worst ERA for a starting pitcher since the mound got lowered in 1969:

      30 games or more started: Jose Lima, KC Royals 2005, 5-16 6.99 ERA

      20 games or more started: Mike Moore, Detroit Tigers 1995, 5-15 7.53

      15 games or more started: Steve Blass, Pittsburgh Pirates 1973, 3-9 9.85
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I think he needs to go to the pen, but only be used to start an inning. Both this year and last, he has faired best in the first inning which may indicate he can give 1 full inning before he falls apart. It's not an altogether different situation than what we saw with Glen Perkins. He too was a head case who didn't trust his stuff.
    1. Vegeta's Avatar
      Vegeta -
      Liriano has to go to the pen. His performance is completely unacceptable. He needs to earn his way back into starting.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      As I have said in other posts in Twins Daily...move Liriano to the pen...he can give us a great 1 or 2 innings coming on in the 7th. If he finds his stuff, Liriano could be our closer in 2013...a role he is more suited for than starting and when we are a contending team we need a closer better than Craps.
      Are you talking about the game being on the line? I'm not sure how many chances I'd give him in that role, nor how well my blood pressure would fare. The few leads we're seeing in the 7th, need to be preserved.

      If you just mean mop-up until he finds himself, any inning is as good as the 7th.
    1. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
      TwinsGuy55422 -
      I say mop-up duty only until he starts to get some confidence. He needs to be able to work on things without having to worry about the score. As he improves, he can gradually be given opportunities in meaningful situations.
    1. Land Of 10,000 Beasts's Avatar
      Land Of 10,000 Beasts -
      Quote Originally Posted by Teflon View Post
      If Liriano stays in the rotation, he could threaten for THE worst ERA for a starting pitcher since the mound got lowered in 1969:

      30 games or more started: Jose Lima, KC Royals 2005, 5-16 6.99 ERA

      20 games or more started: Mike Moore, Detroit Tigers 1995, 5-15 7.53

      15 games or more started: Steve Blass, Pittsburgh Pirates 1973, 3-9 9.85
      I like that stat line. Liriano could easily beat that, seeing as his leash is pretty long in this organization.
    1. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
      TwinsGuy55422 -
      Let's hope that leash is getting shorter by the minute.
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