by Andrew Gould
He tricked everyone again as fantasy owners just can’t break free from Francisco Liriano.
After posting a 2.66 FIP and 3.47 K/BB ratio in 2010, many owners went all in on the Twins’ lefty the following year. He mightily disappointed, pitching to the tune of a 5.09 ERA while walking 5.02 batters per nine innings. Liriano appeared destined to serve the role of a late-round flier for someone looking for a high-reward pick at the end of drafts, but he reeled many owners back in with an impressive spring training.
While spring numbers are usually ignored, Lirano opened eyes by striking out 33 batters, and walking only five, in 27 innings pitched. Considering Liriano’s displays of dominance in the past, many were looking for any signs of life to jump back on his bandwagon. After all, how can you forget about a guy who earned a 2.16 ERA and 1.00 WHIP as a 22-year-old in 2006?
Unfortunately, none of Liriano’s success in March carried over to the regular season. In four starts Liriano has an 11.02 ERA and 2.33 WHIP. In 16 innings he has struck out 12 batters and walked 13. In each start Liriano surrendered five earned runs and has yet to pitch past the fifth inning. His ground ball percentage plummeted to 31.6 percent. To sum it up, Liriano has been bad this year… really, really bad.
Optimists might point to his .393 BABIP in hopes of defending Liriano’s putrid start. His FIP is 4.6 points lower than his ERA, but come on; a 6.42 FIP is dreadful too. Opposing hitters are cracking contact on Liriano at a concerning clip of 78.4%, so his overpowering stuff has yet to appear this season. Most importantly, a 7.16 BB/9 rate just won’t cut it. You need some misfortune to suffer from an ERA over 11, but his failures cannot be blamed on luck.
So, what should owners do with Liriano? At this point, nobody can place him in the starting lineup without risking the obliteration of their ERA and WHIP. In a league without a bench, nobody will blame you for cutting ties with Liriano.
If provided with the luxury of a deep bench, however, waiting a couple more starts before dumping him would make sense. Last year Liriano finished April with a 9.13 ERA and began May by hurling a no-hitter. There’s no denying the ceiling that caused owners to take one more chance on the 28-year-old.
The Twins will skip Liriano’s next turn in the rotation in hopes of refocusing him going forward. If that doesn’t work, Minnesota could send him down to the minors or move him to the bullpen. Right now, Francisco Liriano is hanging on by a thread.