The box score for F-bomb’s first start of the season looks pretty good: six innings, three runs on four hits and, um, a hideous 3/5 K/BB ratio and a wild pitch. Obviously, this is a stark contrast to the pitcher who impressed in the Dominican Winter League and posted a 30/5 KBB ratio in spring training. Was this wildness the result of some first-start-of-the-season jitters? Or is it just the continuation of the same control problems Liriano has struggled with since returning from Tommy-John surgery in 2008? Six innings is far too small a sample size to tell us much of anything, but like that’s going to stop me from making way too big of a deal out of the faintest glimmer of hope or finding things to get needlessly worked up about.
First of all, F-bomb’s slider was nasty, inducing empty swings 21.43% of the time. His changeup wasn’t too shabby either, inducing 13.64% of all his swinging strikes. Also encouraging is the fact that his fastball averaged 93.57 mph, and unlike last year, he was actually throwing it somewhere close to the strikezone. Last year, F-bomb had what was by far the worst four-seamer in the league. Not only did his velocity top out at a pretty average (for a left-hander) 91 mph, he had trouble throwing it for strikes. Actually, F-bomb had trouble throwing pretty much all of his pitches for strikes and hitters had little trouble taking advantage of it, simply laying off his breaking stuff and forcing him to throw fastballs right down the middle of the plate. Not surprisingly, opponents were slugging .543 against him the third time though the batting order, compared to just .287 in the first inning.
Lest we get too optimistic about a return of the 2006 Liriano though, it should be noted that his release point was all over the place in that game, suggesting that he hasn’t exactly put his control issues behind him. And even though it was just his first start of the season, his poor K/BB ratio is a little concerning since the White Sox don’t have a particularly patient lineup. However, his raw stuff is certainly improved from last year, and all the swinging strikes are certainly a good sign, so perhaps the strikeouts will come.