And supressing power from the lefties isn’t the only thing Frankie’s been able to do. He’s been striking out more than a batter an inning, and out of the beastly number of batters faced (666) he’s given up 149 hits, which means that out of every 5 batters he faces, only one gets a hit. And out of those 666 batters faced, only 51 have gotten a free pass. Has he been a little wild? Yes, he has. 9 wild pitches, and 8 hits batsmen. He has been among the best starters in baseball, if not the best starter. In terms of WAR, the one Twins fans call “The Franchise” has put up 5.8. Which puts him behind Roy Halladay (6.4) and Cliff Lee (6.0). He’s leading all of baseball in FIP (2.31) and xFIP (3.01). Name a starter. Any starter, and Liriano has pitched better than them. Now, how has he done it?
The biggest thing, he has kept the ball in the park. He keeps everything very, very simple. Fastball, slider, change-up, and a very rare cutter. He’s found his velocity. His fastball averages 93 MPH, his slider at 86, and his change up at 86. But the biggest thing he’s doing, is he is getting hitters to swing at his stuff. They are swinging at his pitches 47.7% of the time, and making contact on what they swing at 73.2% of the time. And more than half of those pitches are on the ground, and when you have an elite defensive middle infield behind you like JJ Hardy at shortstop (UZR of 19.7) and Orlando Hudson (8.8 UZR) nearly all of those will be turned into outs. But, the groundballs aren’t even the best part of Liriano. He’s leading baseball at in SwStr% (swinging strikes).
Liriano is having the best year of his career, and it’s coming the year after being one of the worst pitchers in the game. He’s not trying to strike everybody out, the strikeouts are just coming. He’s letting batters hit balls on the ground and is letting his defense gobble them up for him.
When Stephen Strasburg comes back from Tommy John surgery, he’d do well to pay attention to Fransisco Liriano’s 2010 season.
(I am taking all these posts off of my own blog, that is tailored to all baseball fans, not just Twins fans, in case anyone was wondering.)