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The Many Faces of Francisco Liriano

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The Twins lefty has had a roller coaster season. Which is the real Liriano?

The Many Faces of Francisco Liriano

In this article…

Francisco Liriano is an enigma.  He wasn't always, but he has evolved, or devolved, into one.  When he came up in 2006 to form a tremendous 1-2 punch with incumbent Twins ace Johan Santana, he was a lights-out power pitcher with a plus fastball and a killer slider.  Liriano went 12-3 in 16 starts with a miniscule 2.16 ERA with the Twins, but his season was derailed by injury.  Liriano was shut down and had Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2007 season.  He hasn't been able to find his rookie form ever since his return in 2008.

Since coming back, Liriano has gone 29-33 in four seasons and hasn't come close to an ERA of 3.00.  He had a bounce-back season last year when he went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA, 191.2 IP, 201 K and a WHIP of 1.26.  A lot of people, including myself, thought that Liriano was finally on his way back to that becoming that dominant pitcher we saw in 2006, or at least a different form of dominating.

Not so fast.  Liriano has struggled this season, but has also shone.  Here are his monthly totals for 2011:

April (5 starts): 1-4, 9.13 ERA, 23.2 IP, 27 H 18 BB, 18 K

May (4 starts): 2-1, 2.52 ERA, 25 IP, 12 H 14 BB, 16K

June (2 starts): 1-1, 0.69 ERA, 13 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 16 K

Those numbers are all over the place, but they are certainly trending in the right direction.  His first start of May was a 1-0 no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox.  He walked six batters in the game, and while a no-hitter is a truly great accomplishment, all those walks worried me.  I wasn't sold on Liriano just yet.  Sure enough, his next start only lasted three innings and he walked another three batters.  But since that start, Liriano is on fire.  He has walked just eight batters over his last four starts, is avoiding bats, and is starting to strike people out again.  Lirianos' K/9 is at a career low this year, 7.3, and his BB/9 is at a career high, 5.1.  Over his last four starts though, his K/9 is up to 10.1 and his BB/9 is down to 2.76.

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He almost recorded his second no-hitter on Sunday, but lost it in the eighth inning against a good Texas Rangers lineup.  Is it safe to say that the dominant Liriano has returned?  I still don't think so.  This is quite a recent stretch for Liriano, but I need to see him keep those walks down for a little longer.  This current side of Liriano is what the Twins have expected since his return from surgery, and they hope it stays for a while.    


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