Francisco Liriano will likely throw less sliders this season. Means that he needs to locate his fast balls. He worked mostly on his fast balls in the winter league. All seems to point that he is going to the right direction.
Question is if he can be consistent all year. Time will tell but I am not about to jump on the band wagon just yet. But I think he will have a better season than last year since he would be hitting free agency. But regardless if we are in contention by the trade deadline or not, lets just hope he has a good season so at least we can get something in return.
From ESPN 1500.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Francisco Liriano labored a bit through four-plus innings in the Minnesota Twins' 11-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out four.
Liriano threw 82 pitches (53 strikes) and his fastball consistently touched 92-94 -- midseason form.
He will likely make one more start before the regular season, and overall everyone -- including Liriano, manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson -- is pleased with how the left-hander is throwing this spring.
"To be honest, yeah," said Liriano, who has struck out 26 while walking only four in 22 innings this spring. "Everything is working, getting better location-wise."
Anderson and Gardenhire have been more and more adamant that Liriano not shy away from contact -- that he trust his fastball and changeup early in counts, as opposed to throwing slider after slider.
Only a handful of pitchers threw more sliders, percentage-wise, than Liriano in 2011. Throwing fewer sliders could also put less stress on his arm.
"More than anything else we just don't want to see slider, slider, slider, slider, slider," Gardenhire said. "We like to see when he uses all of his pitches. Pitch with his fastball, throw that slider every once in a while and use that changeup. Mix them all in. Use them all.
"The one thing you've got to know with him is he's got a great fastball, and he doesn't have to fall in love with that slider. So if he stays with a good mix like he's doing right now he'll be fine."
Pitching in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, Liriano worked mostly on fastball location, and so far this spring he has thrown first-pitch strikes to 56% of the batters he has faced (in four games tracked) -- which is up from the 49% mark he posted last year.
Getting ahead of hitters is important for all pitchers, but probably more-so for Liriano, who has the ability to make hitters look foolish with his slider -- only if they don't know it's coming.
"That's one of the key things," Liriano said. "I just try to throw more fastballs than I used to and try to keep the slider back for an out-pitch. Throw more changeups and two-seamers, try to control that two-seamer. I think it's a good idea, and it's working so far."
I really don't understand people's optimism about Liriano. What is it in his history (especially since the Surgery) that makes people think he'll become a consistently dominant pitcher? I get that he has swing-and-miss stuff, and can occasionally dominate. But if you just look at his body of work, batters don't swing and miss nearly as often as they should against Liriano, which tells us that his stuff fools few batters. He has a good outing, but then a few bad ones. THAT is his history. Not a history that would come anywhere near to suggesting he would be a consistently dominant pitcher.
When you evaluate a pitcher, you don't just pull one or two good starts out and say that's what he should be. You look at the body of work. Regardless of his "stuff", he just isn't able to put a string together.
The constant hope that he will become a consistent pitcher is like being in a drought and hoping that clouds will always bring rain. SOMETIMES they will, but to say they ALWAYS will is simply delusional. It's that hope that keeps the Pohlads from feeling the need to do force their baseball people to develop better draft, playing, and free agent philosophies. The only way this is going to change is if people simply stop going to games. They'll do something when the money starts to drain from the coffers. The Twin Cities region will support a competitive baseball team. We know that. So stop supporting a lesser product than that.
"the only way this is going to change is if people simply stop going to games. "
If they lose 90-100 again, more change will be demanded. The only problem is that this franchise is very stubborn and inflexible to major changes i.e. Gardy, philosophy.
""You just have to sit and talk about it and keep running him out there. You can only change so many starters. We don't have enough people to change all our starters. Frankie has to figure it out."
- Ron Gardenhire
Why can you only change so many starters, Ron? What happens if Frankie doesn't figure it out?
If Frankie doesn't figure it out, he doesn't. But it will do no good to prevent him from starting. It's not like we're exactly racing for the pennant here.
Interesting article from Fan Graphs notes that Liriano is "missing up far too often with his heaters, likely resulting in his 91% zone contact rate". They also note that his velocity is down a couple MPH. Both these things are resulting in him putting more people on base via walks and hits.
Then, Fan Graphs ends with this...
"I do think there’s a good chance Liriano could be going through a bit of a dead-arm period. After an innings decrease last season, he not only threw this winter — 30 innings in winter ball down in the Dominican Republic — but he also was a bit ahead of the curve during spring training, throwing longer bullpens earlier in the spring, presumably to keep himself fit and to chase away his 2011 demons. The Twins really have no choice but to let the free agent to-be fight it out in the rotation, as one-inning bullpen stints aren’t likely to benefit either..."
And then consider we wouldn't get anyone for him in a trade right now. I think the best thing we can do is try and get the light bulb to go on in his head and for his arm to liven up. Crossing my fingers.