Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Looking at Liriano long-term

Should the Twins lock-up the Franchise?
Francisco Liriano seemed to be coming back into form during 2010 as he started to look like the ace the Twins wanted him to be. He used his overpowering pitches to dominated teams and be the starter the Twins need down the stretch. For this reason, I was someone that was in favor of offering a long-term contract to Liriano during this past offseason.

In a post I wrote during the offseason, I made the case to "Lock-up the Franchise." In that piece, I compared Liriano's current situation to that of Zach Greinke. Both of these players had to overcome some kind of obstacle during the early portion of their careers to regain their dominant form. The Royals bought out the last few seasons of arbitration with their contract to Greinke and I felt the Twins should do the same with Liriano.

The start that Liriano had to this season proved that the Twins were right in waiting to offer a contract to Liriano. His first month of the year was full of many poor starts and he only managed to pitch more than five innings in one of those outings. Batters were hitting over .280 off of Liriano and slugging .500 for the month. By the end of April, Liriano was ready to flip the calendar.

Stat Summary (April 2011)
ERA: 9.13
BA: .281
OPS: .897
BAbip: .307
W-L: 1-4

That one magical night in Chicago seemed to put an end to the turmoil that surrounded the first month of the season. Liriano was not perfect but he held the White Sox hitless over nine innings to start his turnaround. The months of May and June have provided a much stronger version of Liriano. His ERA has dropped significantly and opponents are hitting .100 points lower against the lefty.

Stat Summary (May/June 2011)
ERA: 2.96
BA: .195
OPS: .551
BAbip: .240
W-L: 3-3

The flashes of greatness from Liriano have been few and far between during the 2011 campaign. His numbers during the last two months show that progress is being made but the Twins still need more out of him. The Twins are looking for an ace pitcher to go along with the other proven members of the pitching staff. Liriano can provide that ace but he needs to prove he can be consistent first. 

Liriano will enter his last offseason of being eligible for arbitration at the conclusion of the 2011 season. He can become a free agent for the first time at the end of the 2012 season. The Twins are playing the waiting game with Liriano and they will reevaluate the situation at the end of 2011. Will the Twins look at him long-term or only offer him another one-year deal? 

The Twins and Liriano have yet to discuss a long-term contract with the club. The organization seems content going year by year with Liriano but that could change this offseason. Liriano has voiced the opinion that he would love to stay with the Twins. For that to happen, the Twins are going to need to see more of the Liriano of the last two months and not the Liriano from earlier this season. 

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