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Twins Fan From Afar

Projections: Francisco Liriano

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[Originally published at Twins Fan From Afar]

To say that it's a big year for Francisco Liriano is an understatement. He's coming off an awful 2011 (except for that no-hitter), he's trying to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season, and he's pitching for a contract, whether it's from the Twins, or any of the other teams in baseball that might be interested in a lefty with a nasty slider. Earlier this winter, I made my case for trying to extend Liriano before Spring Training even started. Clearly, the Twins (and possibly Liriano) had no interest in that. So now, the Twins are faced with the options of extending Liriano during the season, trying to lock him up after the season, trading him for a potential haul during the season if the team isn't in contention and Liriano looks great, letting him walk, or possibly having to offer him a 1-year, $12.5 million deal in order to get draft pick compensation under the new collective bargaining agreement. That's a lot of money for the Twins, even with some of the starting pitching dollars likely coming off the books next season. Clearly, then, there is a lot at stake this season for both Liriano and the Twins.


I really think that we're going to see a Liriano this season that closely replicates his 2010 success. All the indicators are there: he showed up to camp healthy and in shape after pitching a little during the winter; he has not walked many batters this spring; for the most part he has kept his pitch count reasonable, allowing him to last longer; and he still has been striking out a fair number of hitters. For Liriano -- or most any starter, for that matter -- those are the keys to success, and it looks like Liriano is mostly there. Look at the numbers for Liriano this spring: 27 innings pitched; 2.33 ERA; and most impressively, 33 strikeouts and only 5 walks given up. His WHIP is 1.11, after allowing 25 total hits. So, he has been a strikeout pitcher that pitches to contact. Compare his 2012 spring stats to 2010, when he threw 20 innings, compiled a 2.70 ERA, struck out 30 and walked 5. That spring, his WHIP was 1.20, and he gave up 19 hits. Pretty similar numbers, and reason for optimism.

Unfortunately, Liriano could be pretty great this year, and it might not mean a whole lot to the Twins. The Twins look like a team that will score runs, but will also give up runs from a "just average" defense and a potentially weak bullpen. Some of Liriano's good work, then, could be undone, either by a few hits that should be outs, or from a bullpen implosion after he exits the game. My projection for Liriano this season is the following: 14-11; 3.4 ERA; 210 innings pitched; 185 strikeouts. It will be a very good season for Liriano, and I think he'll remain healthy and lead the staff in victories. And following such a season, there's going to be a contending team that says, "hey, those 14 wins he got in Minnesota would have been 17 or 18 in (pick your choice of New York, Boston, Texas or some other good team)," and a couple of those losses from blown Matt Capps saves wouldn't have happened with us, because our closer is actually good and dependable! Simply stated, I think Liriano could price himself out of Minnesota with a solid 2012 season.

In the end, it's all speculation, of course. Liriano has to stay healthy, and he has to demonstrate that he can control his emotions in big games -- otherwise contending teams will be reluctant to gamble on him. But in 2012, I think we're going to see an interesting mix of a strikeout pitcher who finally has realized the value of a 7-pitch, 3 groundout inning.

Comments

  1. Thrylos's Avatar
    22-5, 2.13 ERA, 215 IP, 245 K

    there
  2. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98
    22-5, 2.13 ERA, 215 IP, 245 K

    there
    Ever the optimist you are, thrylos. I think he would have to win 22 games in order to lead the Twins to the World Series victory over the Nationals that you have predicted!
  3. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
    Twins Fan,

    I think you got your IP and SO backwards, because that would be virtually identical to his 2010 numbers.

    No way Liriano throws 215, 210, or even 200 innings in any year. In 2010 he threw 191 innings and it took him 31 starts to do that. 25 to 30 starts is more realistic, which would put him in the 150-170 range. A 3.40 ERA is possible, so is a 9+ SO/9IP ratio. If he does put up numbers close to his 2010 year, I think he would be a prime candidate to get the 1 year qualifying offer. If he signs a longer term deal elsewhere, the Twins get the pick. If he signs the tender and stinks next year, he will go off the books. With all of his inconsistencies, there is no way the Twins invest anything long term into this guy.
  4. CDog's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Fire Dan Gladden
    Twins Fan,

    I think you got your IP and SO backwards, because that would be virtually identical to his 2010 numbers.

    No way Liriano throws 215, 210, or even 200 innings in any year. In 2010 he threw 191 innings and it took him 31 starts to do that. 25 to 30 starts is more realistic, which would put him in the 150-170 range. A 3.40 ERA is possible, so is a 9+ SO/9IP ratio. If he does put up numbers close to his 2010 year, I think he would be a prime candidate to get the 1 year qualifying offer. If he signs a longer term deal elsewhere, the Twins get the pick. If he signs the tender and stinks next year, he will go off the books. With all of his inconsistencies, there is no way the Twins invest anything long term into this guy.
    Really? There's NO WAY he could throw 9 innings more than he did wayyyyy back two years ago? He couldn't improve his pitch efficiency? Or get one more out per start? He couldn't just improve overall?
  5. CDog's Avatar
    If you're picking exceptions to his awful 2011, don't you have to pick his best start, and not his second best start? The "near" perfecto against Texas was better, I thought.

    Obviously that's a little tongue in cheek (hopefully it's obvious). But there is a point...he's SO hard to project because even when he seems to have turned a corner (2010, the couple of starts in '11 mentioned, plus a few other good ones, etc), or at least for the short-term harnessed what he has, he can stop the train on a dime and go the other direction. He's so high-variance, not only from year to year, but sometimes even start to start. I don't know if that will ever go away. And it will take even longer, almost by definition, before those of us observing can feel any sense of comfort in knowing what we'll get.
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