Make Or Break Year: Francisco Liriano

In 2006, Baseball America's sixth-ranked prospect took the American League by storm after the Twins moved him from the bullpen into the rotation. Francisco Liriano was every bit as dominant as fellow ace Johan Santana, and Minnesota looked to have a pair of dynamic left-handers that would be as formidable as any one-two punch in baseball. Uspw_5484486

Tommy John surgery that summer derailed that tandem, and set Liriano on the shelf for the entirety of the 2007 season. After 118 innings of work at Triple-A in 2008, Liriano rejoined the Twins' rotation to mixed success, and his dreadful 2009 was forgettable, to put it lightly (5.80 ERA in 136 2/3 innings).

Liriano exploded in 2010 to show that he wasn't done yet, though, winning the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award with 191 2/3 innings of 3.62 ERA ball. As is often the case, the ERA didn't tell the whole tale. Fangraphs pegged Liriano's worth at a whopping six wins above replacement. He struck out 9.4 hitters per nine innings pitched, while walking just 2.7 per nine. His SIERA was 3.02, while FIP liked him for a full run lower than his ERA — 2.66.

Those days seem like a distant memory however, following yet another disappointing season in 2011. Liriano avoided arbitration this winter by settling on a one-year deal worth $5.5MM. After a fantastic Spring Training in which he posted a 33:5 K:BB ratio in 27 innings while featuring a fastball above 93mph, Liriano is looking like his 2011 self. His first two starts have left him with an ERA of 10.00, and he's walked five hitters in nine innings while striking out just six. There's certainly time to turn it around, but it's in his best financial interest to do so sooner rather than later.

Liriano is a free agent following this season, and while he has the talent to be one of the game's most dominant southpaws, his consistency will limit his free agent earnings. A return to his 2010 ways would be enough to entice suitors to pony up on a multiyear deal, perhaps similar to the three-year, $32MM deal signed by Jorge De La Rosa following the 2010 season. With enough interested parties, larger offers wouldn't be out of the question for a 29-year-old lefty with ace-caliber stuff.

A repeat of his 2011 numbers, however, would likely relegate Liriano to a one-year deal in which he'd be seeking to prove that he can still pitch at this level. The next six months could very well mean tens of millions of dollars to the enigmatic lefty.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Terada/US Presswire.

9 Responses to Make Or Break Year: Francisco Liriano Leave a Reply

  1. johnsilver 3 years ago

    Mega talented and really wish he could get it together, stay health and remain with the Twins. This is one of the most talented pitchers in the game.. When healthy.. Sound like someone from the NL.. Like Josh Johnson??

    • Sort of. Johnson is unhittable when healthy. But staying healthy is the main problem. Liriano has had injury trouble in the past but is also extremely inconsistent. He could be lights out one night and a walk machine the next. 

  2. mrsjohnmiltonrocks 3 years ago

    He needs to get away from the Twins!  He has never been comfortable with their pitch to contact ways.  There has been a long standing lack of communication and if an organization values you, they find ways to make sure that doesn’t happen.  The Twins only interest in Liriano is using him until they can’t anymore.  Then he goes to the discard pile.

    Liriano should take a one year make good deal with any team but the Twins.

  3. Twinkilling61 3 years ago

    I bet he gets an Edwin Jackson kind of contract. Either short-term on a good team or long-term on a bad one.

  4. Wes Whitenack 3 years ago

    He’s needs to get in touch with a good pitching coach to help him fix his control problem, then he be much better off for himself.

  5. nick1538 3 years ago

    Although the “Twins way” has to be part of the reason for Liriano’s decline, the other factor seems to be his fear of re-injuring himself.  His fastball dropped from 94 to 91 after TJ surgery and he stopped favoring his nasty slider (used it 36% of the time pre-surgery, ~26% post-surgery).  The slider made him dominant, but he was afraid to throw it with as much frequency without hurting himself (he favored it again in 2010 at 33%).  That was also part of the change in mechanics.  

  6. I’m glad Liriano won’t be with the Twins after this season, i’m sick of his inconsistency. Thanks for the no-hitter, though. 

  7. Tko11 3 years ago

    I remember back when the Twins traded Santana to the Mets, Liriano looked like he would step into Santana’s footsteps and be a legit ace. Too bad injuries ruined him.

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