|Francisco Liriano: an intriging Free Agent||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on November 12, 2012
Over his six-year career Liriano is just a game under .500, but how come he’s not a lot better is a question many teams, coaches and analysts regularly ask.
Photo by Kieth Allison, used under creative commons license.
When healthy in both body and mind Liriano’s stuff is filthy. He’s got a slider a la Marino Rivera’s cutter, just about unhittable, and a fastball which rates as one of the best in the league.
But it’s the healthy in body and possibly in mind part that has proven to be erratic since his dominating rookie campaign back in 2006. That season Liriano tore apart the American League and made a run at Rookie of the Year honors by going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 K’s in just 121 innings. He seemed poised for big things.
But instead of that being the start of what looked to be an ace-like career, it all quickly fell apart as Liriano never got to pitch in 2007 because of Tommy John surgery to replace a ligament in his pitching elbow.
The pitcher who returned didn’t look like the same Francisco Liriano. His velocity wasn’t the same, his control wasn’t either. Over the next two seasons he went 11-17 alternating between decent starts and seemingly throwing batting practice to opposing teams. A steady hand back in 2010 seemed to put him back on the right track as he posted a 14-10 record, but he hasn’t been able to maintain that success.
This past season the struggles were evident. After his first four starts his ERA sat at 11.2; after just six games he was demoted to the bullpen. Physically nothing was wrong, but mentally and mechanically things seemed to be awry. By the end of May he was back in the rotation and looked good -- for a while.
His next twelve starts were solid ones, as he gave up only 20 runs over that span striking out 77 batters in just 63 1/3 innings as he came out and once again terrorized AL hitters with nine quality starts in that span.
Then it fell apart again.
Now he’s a free agent. A free agent with ace-type stuff but whose mechanics and mental toughness aren’t as consistent as any team would like. No doubt there are a score of pitching coaches who’d love to get their hands on him, and probably 30 teams that would love to sign him to a contract and see if he can tap into that ace-type potential.
The problem is there was another lefty with not quite this kind of level of stuff but who carried the same kind of questions going into a free agent year. The pitcher was Oliver Perez and he burned the Mets for $39 million.
Now Liriano is nowhere near as squirrelly as Perez was and his stuff is better. In fact those meeting with Liriano almost always come away impressed by what his mental attitude seems to be. He acts like a winner and shows flashes of pitching like one.
Someone will gamble on him. Hell they’ll gamble on any lefty with a pulse (and sometimes the pulse seems to be optional). No doubt he’ll receive multiple one year offers as teams try to figure out just what they can do for his mechanics and mental state and just what Liriano can do for them.
He might have to take one of those deals, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that some team decides to gamble and offer him a two- or even three-year deal at a not quite bargain price, hoping to land an ace on the cheap.
Any teams thinking of making that offer will have to believe they’ve got one heck of a pitching coach, someone who can mentor Liriano and teach him the consistency that he really needs to be an impact player going forward.