Thursday, June 7, 2012

Liriano seems to be changing his release point

When the Twins were forced to send Francisco Liriano to the bullpen at the beginning of last month, there was plenty of things for the left-handed pitcher to improve during his time away from starting. In his last four starts before being relegated to the bullpen, Liriano lost all four outings and posted an ERA of over 9.00 while only averaging a little over four innings a start. Opponents had an OPS of over 1.000 against him and it was time for something to change.

His relief appearances were not outstanding as he walked too many batters but he managed to escape many of the outings without allowing a run. These little steps helped him to improve his low confidence and it helped the team to be able to trust him when they were ready to let him return to the rotation. Some other situations forced the team to return him to the rotation last week and so far the results have been very positive.

In two starts since being back in the rotation, Liriano has pitched six innings in each outing and given up one earned run total. His 17 strikeouts compared to three walks is a far cry from where he was in the early part of the year. Opponents OPS has dropped to .437 and Liriano has dropped his ERA to 0.75 over the two games. Most fans are going to look at the two opponents, the Oakland A's and the Kansas City Royals, and say they are not prolific offenses. From the Twins point of view, any positive starts from Liriano are steps in the right direction as the team needs him to be a consistent starter to help the team to victories.

So what changed for Liriano since the last time he was in the rotation? Some of his improvement can be chalked up to the poor teams the Twins were playing. But overall, there must be another reason for this new and improved version of Liriano.

One of the changes that stands out from some of the different PitchFX data is the fact that Liriano seems to have changed the release point on some of his pitches. In the past, he has been known to change his position on the rubber because of the handedness of the batter. This can obviously impact his release point; but over the course of the game, his release point graphic should still end up looking somewhat similar.

Take a look at the images below from Brooks Baseball of Liriano's release point in the two starts he made before his trip to the bullpen. Coincidentally, both starts came against the Angels at the beginning of May.
For the most part, his release point was very consistent for all of his pitches. This can be a good thing for a pitcher because then the hitter can't tell what kind of pitch that is coming because of where it is being released by the man on the mound. The problem for Liriano was that he was throwing too many balls and being hit very hard. Over the course of the two games shown above, Liriano gave up three home runs, walked six batters, and had an ERA near 7.00 when all was said and done.

Since returning to the bump, Liriano's results on the field have been much better but take a look at his release point and how it compares to the pictures above.
Instead of there being one solid grouping for all of his release points, there are two distinctly different release points in the new and improved Liriano. It's also important take note of the the results from this new release point. A majority of the pitches in this area are swinging strikes or balls that were put into play where outs were recorded. This subtle change seems to have a major improvement in the results on the field for Liriano.

The next two starts for Liriano are scheduled to come at Target Field against the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers. These teams have each faced their fair share of offensive struggles so far in 2012. If Liriano is going to continue his recently found success, it will help to play teams that are not prolific offenses. It will be key for him to continue to find the zone with his fastball so he can keep hitters off balance with different pitches and his multiple release points.


thrylos98 said...

That split release point is due to standing on different parts of the rubber vs LH and RH batters. He has been doing that forever. Andy on occasion has been trying to mess with him on that... and we know the results.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

Yeah I talked about that in the article. He wasn't doing the split in his starts before he went to the bullpen. That's why I was intrigued by the change.