Francisco Liriano – A look back and a look forward


Francisco Liriano had a rough start in 2011.  After the end of April Frankie had started 4 games and had a nifty 11.02 ERA, had walked 13 batters and only struck out 12 of the 85 batters faced over the course of his 16.1 innings pitched.

As Frankie and the Twins moved into May things got marginally better, but after 2 more starts his ERA was 9.45 and had only once reached 5.1 innings while ammassing a stellar o-5 record. The Twins decided to move Francisco to the bullpen, and as we went to the end of May Frankie had made 5 appearances from the pen and had walked 7 and struck out 9 in 7.1 innings; Frankie had lowered his ERA to 8.47.  On the 30th of May the Twins put Francisco back into the starting rotation and he responded by striking out 9 Athletics and only walking 2 in six innings of work earning his first victory of the season and lowering his ERA to 7.20.

In June Frankie continued his return to dominance, he made 5 starts only once pitching less than 6 innings and struck out a batter per inning over his 31.1 innings of work while only walking 12 and lowering his ERA to 5.30. And while Frankie would end the month with a record of 2-7, the Twins offense provided him with a miniscule 2.25 runs per start.

As the calendar rolled over from June to July Francisco ran into a little problem when he was tagged with 5 runs (4 earned) when he faced off against the Kansas City Royals in 5.1 innings of work.  Frankie bounced back nicely in his last start before the All-Star game and pitched 6.2 innings against the Texas Rangers, giving up only 5 hits and 1 run lowering his ERA to a season low of 5.08.

Since his return to the starting rotation, Francisco Liriano has started 8 games gone 49.1 innings with an ERA of 2.75 and has struck out more than a batter per inning and has allowed only 1 HR in 200+ plate appearances.  As the trade deadline approaches, it will be interesting to see if the Twins choose to trade Francisco Liriano or if they hold onto him into his impending free agency this off-season.  Will a contender be willing to give up prospects in exchange for a borderline headcase pitcher?  When Frankie is on, he’s one of the best in the league, but there are no guarantees that he won’t turn right back into a pumpkin when the clock strikes midnight.  The next couple starts are going to tell us as fans, and the organization, a lot about the future of Frankie in Minnesota.

If the Twins decide to keep Frankie, and he continues his dominance through the second half of the season, Liriano will be looking for a 3-4 year deal at upwards of $10mil/season, and knowing Liriano’s past the way the Twins do, I can’t see them biting off another big contract on him.  Under the new (CBA), however, the Twins can offer Liriano a one year deal for 12.5 million and if Frankie accepts they get him on a one year deal (and how bad  can a one year deal be?) and if he rejects it and signs elsewhere the Twins will receive 2 compensatory picks in next year’s draft.

With the Twins sitting 13 games under .500 and looking to be sellers at the trade deadline, there will be big decisions to be made.  On a team this bad, anyone should be available for a trade, assuming the price is right.  The Twins should listen to any offers, and if someone offers the moon, they should happily send Frankie on his way.  However, the new CBA gives the Twins serious reason for hanging onto Liriano through the end of the season.  There’s a chance that Frankie turns back into a pumpkin, and if the Twins had a chance to move him and didn’t, they’ll get nothing in return.

Francisco seems to have himself back on track, and while a good 8 starts is not a season of work, it bodes well for Frankie going forward.  I hope someone offers the Twins the world for Frankie, but it’s more likely the Twins will hold onto Liriano and hope for the best. The Twins are hurting in the starting rotation this year, and while no one is expecting great things from this team, losing another arm from the rotation would really send this team reeling.

I’m looking for good things from Frankie in the second half.  This afternoon he faces off against A.J. Griffin of the Oakland Athletics and I like Frankie to get the Twins off on the right foot in the second half of the season.

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