Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Francisco Liriano One Season From ???

Francisco Liriano will be a free agent at the end of the season and as a starter who has realized his potential with excellent seasons and also shown to be only slightly more effective than the Dontrelle Willis we’ve become accustomed to seeing since ‘07, where will he land? Much like Willis, the fact that  he’s a lefty with excellent stuff will surely keep him in or near the league, but the real question is what he’ll do this year, and how that will impact him going forward.

Much like Joel Pineiro who we have already discussed here Liriano’s career numbers make him look pedestrian as a result of being both dominant one season and a push over the next. Unlike Pineiro who is 6 years older, Liriano is in his last year of arbitration and will be only 29 on opening day next season. Surely his unpredictable performance will be a deterrent to many possible suitors, but his dazzling stat line in even numbered years will be appealing to someone. Liriano’s got too much potential to be ignored completely, and will, barring a catastrophically bad year, be looking at a major league offer or two at the end of the season.

One of the biggest question marks looking over his stat sheet is his command, while his BABIP is high year in and year out (.312 for his career) it seems one of his biggest issues is keeping the ball over the plate, but not over the middle. If you see Liriano giving up walks, you can be sure he’s gearing up to give up a shot into the bleachers shortly thereafter. In his dominant years he has kept his walk rate in check, while also keeping more balls in the yard, which absolutely makes sense. That much all feels very obvious, when he’s having trouble spotting pitches, he’s leaving a few over the middle of the plate trying to reestablish his command. It’s hard to call Liriano a groundball pitcher, but he certainly does seem to induce more ground balls when he’s on. This of course would help him more if his defense was backing him up more, and if he were on a more defensively solid team his overall numbers are liable to look a good bit better.

Cole Hamels’s career BABIP sits at a comfortable .285 including last season’s .259 that helped keep his opposing batting average to a .214 and his ERA light at 2.79. Similarly former teammate Matt Garza has a .290 BABIP helping keep his opposing batting average to a .250 for his career. While Liriano’s opposing batting average is also at .250, his walk rates have gotten him into trouble, last year for instance his opposing on base percentage sat at .350, 101 points higher than his opposing batting average. While the defense behind him could help take some of the sting out of his shaky location, Liriano’s biggest key to success is absolutely no different than the typical mantra for pitchers. If he can settle down and spot his pitches, he’ll put up good numbers and could be looked at as an asset for many teams going into next season rather than a D-Train style reclamation project.

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