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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fantasy Blurb: Liriano, ‘Oh no!’

Many people (including me) drafted Francisco Liriano to secure their #1 or #2 starting pitcher spot. The returns haven’t been all that great so far. In fact, they’ve been downright awful. So bad in fact that I’ve heard rumblings that people want to sell low on him just to get something in return or just flat out release him since they can’t stand to be in the bottom 3rd of their league in mid-April. Let’s take a look at his starts:

@TOR – 4 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K
@NYY – 5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
Vs. KC – 5 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

You’re looking at a pitcher who is giving you a 9.42 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 7.5 K/9 and 0 wins. At this point, Armando Galarraga would’ve been a better choice than Liriano. Am I advising you to drop Liriano and grab Galarraga, who is only owned by 1% in Yahoo leagues? No…no I’m not.

There is reason to believe that Liriano won’t be the pitcher we imagined he would be in 2011. First of all, his velocity is down, 93.7 MPH fastball in 2010 and 91.6 MPH in 2011. He has yet to pitch more than 5 innings. He has given up at least 4 ER in each start. He’s not striking out as many batters as in the past. He’s also a injury risk and could tweak something that could cause him to miss quite a few starts.

Despite all that, I’m not ready to hit the panic button yet. Even though his last start hurt you the most, it’s probably the most telling of him turning things around. The first thing that jumps out is the BB, only 1 in 5 innings as opposed to 8 in 9 1/3 innings previously.

Next, there’s the way the Royals scored their runs. Liriano was cruising along, giving up 0 runs and 0 hits through the first 3 innings of the game, then 5 straight singles to lead off the 4th followed by double and 2 more singles (with some outs in between). While that looks like a disaster, some would call it more bad luck than anything. And the key thing here is singles, more importantly groundball singles. In Liriano’s previous 2 starts, he’s given up 55.2% flyballs, after yesterday’s game that has dropped to 39.6%. Still far away from the 27.4% he put up in 2011, but at least it’s going in the right direction.

It’s a marathon, not a race. It’s still April. It’s early. It’s only 3 starts. Don’t release Liriano, don’t even bench him. He could be great as early as his next start against the Orioles and you don’t want that on your bench. And if you don’t own Liriano, time to take advantage of a panicking owner who thinks being in first on the last day of April is just as important as being in first on the last day of September.

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