• Liriano Rediscovers the Slider

    Francisco Liriano’s first six starts of the season were nothing short of disappointing.

    With plenty of raw talent, the Twins potential rotation leader failed miserably, throwing 26.2 innings, allowed 37 hits (six of which were home runs), posted a terrible 21-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio and failed to pitch into to the sixth inning in all but one start.

    In that time, Liriano was drastically out of whack mechanically and the coaching staff had even tried to recreate his spring training success by getting him to throw his four-seam fastball more than his two-seamer which he struggled to command. The changes did not keep him from derailing and a shift to the bullpen would be required.

    After several outings in the ‘pen, injuries and perhaps a need to inflate his trade value necessitated his return to the rotation. Even though the team’s record in those four starts may not reflect it (1-3), Liriano has been a better pitcher during this more recent stretch. He’s worked 23.2 innings (completing six innings in all but one start in which he fell one out shy of the mark) and has allowed just 12 hits to go along with a much improved 29-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    One of the main reasons for this subtle rejuvenation is that he has increased his slider usage.

    In the past three years, Liriano has had one of the game’s best sliders. According to Fangraphs.com, since 2010 Liriano’s slider has been “worth” 23.6 runs above average, making it the eighth most valuable slider in that time. However, he was encouraged to throw his two-seam fastball more often in attempts to get more quick outs – a ground ball here and there – to avoid getting into deeper counts like most strikeout pitchers do.

    So, during his first stint in the rotation this year (April 1 – May 7), Liriano favored the two-seam fastball, throwing it 52% of the time and, of those, threw 56% for strikes – a good not great rate. Because of favoring his two-seamer, he threw his slider just 26% of the time in those six starts. In his second stint in the rotation (May 30 – Present), Liriano has leaned more on the biting slider, mixing it in now at 38% of the time.

    Francisco Liriano – Slider Usage (2012)
    Two-Seam Fastball Slider Batting Average
    April 1 – May 7 52% 26% .346
    May 30 – June 15 38% 38% .143

    What’s more is that not only is Liriano using the breaking ball more frequently across the board he is also using it quite a bit to start off each batter in efforts to get ahead of opponents. One of Liriano’s shortcomings these past two years has been his inability to get ahead of hitters. In fact, of starters who have thrown a minimum of 150 innings since 2011, Liriano’s 51% first-pitch strike rate was the lowest in baseball. Not surprisingly, Liriano mainly threw his two-seam fastball on the first pitch and 62% of the time in his first six starts. Meanwhile, in his second go round, he has increased the amount of slider’s he has thrown (from 22% to 36%) and reduced the amount of two-seamers (from 62% to 38%). Because his slider has a much higher strike rate than his fastball, Liriano has found himself ahead in the count more in these last four starts.

    The change in his pitch distribution has led not only to more strikes but also more ground balls. Liriano’s slider is a ground ball manufacturer and in his first six starts, he exercised a GB/FB split of 0.69, meaning he was inducing more fly balls than grounders (as seen in his six home runs allowed in that time). More recently, that batted ball ratio has increased to 1.00 GB/FB which means the amount of grounders has grown (and he has allowed just one home run in those four starts).

    What we are likely seeing is Liriano upping his value from absolute zero to something that could bring the Twins a decent prospect in return if he continues this performance and the Twins decide to move him. Watch for Liriano to throw more slide pieces in tonight’s start again Pittsburgh.
    This article was originally published in blog: Liriano Rediscovers the Slider started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 45 Comments
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by chopper0080 View Post
      Seriously? You guys are now advocating Liriano after a few good starts? This is who he is, a totally inconsistent pitcher with talent. Hoping he stays hot and trading him for a middle grade prospect is our best case scenario. Liriano is never going to be a pitcher a club can rely on and we will be lucky to get something for him.
      FWIW, I disagree with everything in this post. Strongly.

      "Inconsistent...with talent" beats the crap out of consistent but with no talent. Isn't that exactly what everyone complains about, endlessly? The Twins have no talented starting pitchers?

      Perhaps Liriano never does figure it out. But on a team desparate for above average starting pitching I'd take Liriano over any combination of Blackburn/Marquis/Pavano/Walters/whatever scrap heap reclamation project next season brings us, any day, and it wouldn't cost much more. In some cases, less.

      IMO some team is going to get a gem in Liriano some day. I hope it's the Twins.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      More like $12.5 million.


      Consider your nits picked.
      I'd offer 3/$21 right now. I bet he'd take it. That's one more year and only $2.5M more than Pavano got to lead the league in hits allowed and implode in year two.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I'd offer 3/$21 right now. I bet he'd take it. That's one more year and only $2.5M more than Pavano got to lead the league in hits allowed and implode in year two.
      That would be a whole lot better risk than the guaranteed mediocrity they would likely sign otherwise.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by YourHouseIsMyHouse View Post
      I don't see any harm in offering 6 million to Liriano through arbitration.
      I have a question on the new rules and that reminded me. There's that ~$12M number that is out there...is that the amount they have to offer him IN ORDER TO GET a compensation pick? Or is that the minimum arbitration number, period? I guess I'm wondering if they could offer him arbitration for a more reasonable number.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Parker, you do a great job trying to unravel this mystery.
    1. Twins best friend's Avatar
      Twins best friend -
      Quote Originally Posted by chopper0080 View Post
      Seriously? You guys are now advocating Liriano after a few good starts? This is who he is, a totally inconsistent pitcher with talent. Hoping he stays hot and trading him for a middle grade prospect is our best case scenario. Liriano is never going to be a pitcher a club can rely on and we will be lucky to get something for him.
      I've gotta say that I agree to an extent. If the Twins can't get a good return on him though a trade then they may as well see how little they can pay for him. It's all but decided that the Twins are not going to compete next year and while Liriano can be awful, he can also be spectacular. If the previously mentioned scenario plays out then there's no reason they shouldn't take a chance on giving fans potential greatness when his inconsistency surely won't cost the team their season.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      i agree with those who prefer the hope for having an ace over the guaranteed mediocrity that will result from letting Liriano go. Maybe if they could get a prospect who has ace potential, this might make sense. Otherwise, if Liriano does well during the rest of this season, I would offer the minimum amount necessary to qualify for a compensation pick.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      cannot offer $6m to him in arbitration......has to be $12m under new rules.
      Does this change your attitude on this bum?

      You're telling me the 80% rule was changed in the new CBA? What Cdog said makes a lot more sense.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      I have a question on the new rules and that reminded me. There's that ~$12M number that is out there...is that the amount they have to offer him IN ORDER TO GET a compensation pick? Or is that the minimum arbitration number, period? I guess I'm wondering if they could offer him arbitration for a more reasonable number.
      I believe you are correct. The 12.5 million number I assume is the average salary of the 125 highest paid players that posters keep bringing up. This only pertains to Draft Pick Compensation under the new CBA and the 80% rule still stands. Therefore, my stance in my previous post doesn't change and I would be shocked if Liriano didn't accept 6 million after pitching like crap.
      Source: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/2011_CBA.pdf
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Bryz-Gornia View Post
      A 5.63 ERA in only 5 starts at Target Field is a terrible reason to not sign him. No, the Twins won't sign him because he'll be too expensive.
      And giving a contract to someone with those numbers in your home park is irresponsible.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by YourHouseIsMyHouse View Post
      And giving a contract to someone with those numbers in your home park is irresponsible.
      No, drawing any conclusions whatsoever from a sample size that incredibly small and completely meaningless would be irresponsible.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Other than Liriano, is there even a remote hope for an ace next year?
    1. ltwedt's Avatar
      ltwedt -
      Ship him - but get SOMETHING
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I'd offer 3/$21 right now. I bet he'd take it.
      He quite possibly would, assuming he's not fed up with the organization and wants to start fresh somewhere.

      This is why Terry Ryan sits in the big chair - a very difficult decision. Shades of signing Nick Blackburn - there's a very big risk that a year from now Liriano is back to scuffling and the contract makes him totally untradeable, instead of just not tradeable for as much as we'd want. A similar size contract to what was given to Willingham, but with much greater risk/reward either side.
    1. The Greatest Poster Alive's Avatar
      The Greatest Poster Alive -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      Other than Liriano, is there even a remote hope for an ace next year?
      Not in the organization. Twins need to throw a pile of cash at Grienke's feet.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Greatest Poster Alive View Post
      Not in the organization. Twins need to throw a pile of cash at Grienke's feet.
      If they sign Grienke, they need to keep Liriano. The idea of the maid knocking on their hotel room door a little too loudly and both of them wetting the bed is too great a situation to pass up.
    1. The Greatest Poster Alive's Avatar
      The Greatest Poster Alive -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      If they sign Grienke, they need to keep Liriano. The idea of the maid knocking on their hotel room door a little too loudly and both of them wetting the bed is too great a situation to pass up.
      They need to bring back tweak to get the insane pitcher trifecta.
    1. chopper0080's Avatar
      chopper0080 -
      At some point you have to stop chasing the pipe dream of Liriano and his "ace potential" and move on, hopefully while also adding some sort of prospect that could develop into a contributor. I would rather pay Anibal Sanchez 12.5 million than Liriano any day of the week. I get the "potential" and "upside" of Liriano, but not trading him when his contract is nearly up and letting him walk for nothing is stupid.
    1. The Greatest Poster Alive's Avatar
      The Greatest Poster Alive -
      Quote Originally Posted by chopper0080 View Post
      At some point you have to stop chasing the pipe dream of Liriano and his "ace potential" and move on, hopefully while also adding some sort of prospect that could develop into a contributor. I would rather pay Anibal Sanchez 12.5 million than Liriano any day of the week. I get the "potential" and "upside" of Liriano, but not trading him when his contract is nearly up and letting him walk for nothing is stupid.
      Thinking someone is going to trust Liriano in a stretch run is just as stupid.

      You can trade him for a player on the level of Cole Devries... or HOld on to him and not further deplete your roster for the rest of the year...

      If someone actually offers something worthwhile, then sure trade him... but for a throwaway prospect the trade is not worth adding to the already huge depth problem in the rotation.
    1. etspaceman's Avatar
      etspaceman -
      Honestly, I wouldn't care if Liriano doesn't net much in a trade; at this point, it's probably best to give young, developing players the innings rather than starting a guy who hasn't "figured it out" in 5 years after his Tommy John. What are we hoping for anymore?

      This reminds me of the Boof Bonser situation, quite frankly.
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