Monday, June 2, 2008

Francisco Liriano Back on Track?

It's been a long, painful journey for Francisco Liriano, but his numbers are getting better by the start, and I think his location and "stuff" is finally getting close to what it was before his Tommy John Surgery. He finished out the month of May with a K% of 18%, along with a BB% of 7%. The BB% is in line with his pre-Tommy John stats, but the K% is still well below the 32% he posted as a 21 year old in AAA, suggesting that he while his command has improved, he still needs some work on locating his "out" pitches, or something else of that nature.

During Liriano's most recent start he went 6.1 innings, striking out 7 while only walking 2 (one of which was an HBP). Of the 24 batters he faced, he gave up 3 line drives, and 2 fly balls to the outfield, while forcing 6 ground balls and 4 infield flies. Including strike outs, ground outs and infield flies, Liriano effectivley neutralized 70.8% of the batters he faced, compared to the 50% he averaged in 10.1 innings with the Twins earlier this year. In 2006, Liriano's K% plus GB% averaged around 90%, so he is essentially halfway back to where he left off.

Since April, Liriano has boosted his GB% from 32% to 41%. However, to reach his pre-Tommy John GB% rate that would often hover around 60%, Liriano will need to continue to improve his command, work on keeping the ball down, and throwing strikes early. Though this single start gives us only a small sample size, it marks the first time that Liriano has reached a K/9 rate over 9.0 in a start, and the low fly ball number suggests that he might soon return to being a dominant ground ball pitcher with lights out stuff. If you see his sustained GB% creep up over 50% and his K% breaks the 25% barrier, expect to see the Liriano of old in a major league start soon.

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