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Player Retrospective: Francisco Liriano


Twins Daily Contributor

After 1,813 2/3 innings and more than 13 seasons at the Major League Level, Fansided reports that Francisco Liriano is hanging it up. Let's reflect on the career that was for the former Twins southpaw in a player retrospective.

Francisco Liriano was signed as an international free agent in 2000 by the San Francisco Giants before being sent to the Twins in the A.J. Pierzynski trade following the 2003 season. At the time, Liriano was the 83rd ranked prospect in baseball, per Baseball America via Baseball Cube, and was the headliner in a trade that also netted the Twins Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser. Liriano would spend the majority of the next two seasons dominating at AA-New Brighton and AAA-Rochester before exploding onto the scene in 2006.

Liriano started the season with the Twins as a reliever where he was quite effective posting a 3.22 ERA and a 32:4 K:BB over 22 1/3 innings pitched. On May 15th, the Twins decided to move struggling right-hander Carlos Silva to the bullpen and promote Liriano to the starting rotation where he went on to make 15 dominant starts with a 1.96 ERA/2.85 FIP, 3.9 K/BB ratio, and held opponents to a .238 wOBA. This stretch included being selected for the All-Star Game and bookended with back-to-back starts of double-digit strikeouts against Cleveland on July 23rd and the Detroit Tigers five days later. Ultimately, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, Liriano was shut down due to a strained ligament in his throwing arm after his start on August 7th. He needed Tommy John surgery after lasting just two innings against Oakland on September 13th. Despite starting the season in the bullpen and losing the last two months of the season to injury, the Twins rookie phenom affectionately dubbed “The Franchise” finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.

It was 578 days between Major League starts for Liriano. He lasted just three starts before being sent to AAA-Rochester until August of 2008. He showed flashes of his old self in the last two months of the season, but it was clear he wasn’t the same pitcher from 2006. In fact, it wasn't until the 2010 season when the Twins got consistent, effective production from the former budding star. He even received Cy Young Award votes, but alas, that season ended up being a one-off. 

Aside from a (messy) no-hitter on May 3rd, 2011, the lefty struggled over the next 48 starts leading to him being dealt to division rival Chicago White Sox at the 2012 trade deadline for star-to-be Eduardo Escobar (thanks again, A.J.) and LHP Pedro Hernandez.

His tenure with the White Sox lasted just two months and he spent the next three-and-a-half years with the Pittsburgh Pirates where he enjoyed a bit of a resurgence making 86 starts from 2013 to 2015 and posting a 3.26 ERA/3.23 FIP and a 9.6 K/9 but struggled with control walking 3.8 batters per nine innings. These control issues only got worse in 2016 which led to him being dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline and then again a year later from the Blue Jays to the Houston Astros.

He spent 2017 with the Detroit Tigers making 26 starts but with a decreasing fastball velocity and K/9 coupled with an increasing BB/9, ERA, and FIP, it was clear that his run as an effective starter was over at 34 years old. Back in Pittsburgh for the juiced 2019 season, he had a bit of a renaissance as a reliever where he made 69 appearances with a respectable 8.10 K/9 and 3.47 ERA/4.14 FIP. He signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia in 2020 before being released ahead of the start of the season and then, in 2021, a minor-league deal with Toronto before being released ahead of that season.

In his 13 roller coaster seasons, Francisco Liriano made 300 starts and 119 relief appearances. As a starter, he ended with a 4.16 ERA/3.88 FIP, striking out 1,682 batters, while as a reliever he had a 4.08 ERA/3.94 FIP and sitting down 133 hitters. He’s the ultimate “What Could Have Been?” story, but gave Twins fans one of the best 15 game stretches in franchise history. So with that in the forefront, let’s wish Francisco Liriano a happy and healthy retirement from Twins Territory by leaving your favorite story or memory in the comment section.

 


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For those who were too young to remember.... the best 1/2 seasons of pitching in twins history were

Francisco Liriano 2006

Scott Erickson 1991

Each were ABSOLUTELY DOMINANT for a brief period. (arguably more than even peak Santana... but obviously he was great for much longer :) Unbelievably fun to watch.

It was similar to watching Moss during his rookie season.... just so rare to watch a player overwhelm opponents at the professional level in any sport.

For that, I'm so grateful to Liriano....it doesn't come along often....

 

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With all due respect to Terry Ryan, who I liked and appreciated very much for what he accomplished, I'm not sure he would have pulled the trigger to add a depth piece or two back in the early 2000's to help us get over the proverbial hump...BUT...I would have LOVED to see what the Twins might have accomplished over a 3-4yr run with a healthy Santana, Liriano and Radke heading the rotation.  It could have been wonderful.

I feel bad Liriano became a victim to the evil injury baseball gods, but MY GOODNESS how he shined for a brief time! I wish him the best in his retirement. 

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