After my list of 55 pitchers that I would rather have start game 1 of the 2011 ALDS than Francisco Liriano came out, I have been asked to further back my claims. I started the list expecting to come up with about 25-35 better, putting Liriano in that mix as a solid #2, borderline #1 pitcher in baseball today. I was a little surprised myself with how many I grabbed. I did not look at any stats but rather just looked at the projected opening day rosters and rotations and said either, "Yep, I would rather have him" or "Nope, I would rather have Frankie."
The idea behind this was to show to myself more than to show others whether Liriano is a #2 pitcher and the Twins are justified in their stance that they do not want to commit the 3 years $39M that he is asking for or if they should give him the #1 money he may deserve.
There is no arguing with the pure "stuff" that Francisco has. He has a 2-seamer with great movement, an improving change and a devastating slider. There is also no question that Liriano had a great 2010 season; He was 11th in Cy Young voting in the A.L last year.
Here is the other side of 2010. After May 1st, he completed 8 or more innings only once. He was 11-10 with a 4.16 ERA and averaged under 6 innings per start. His postseason start was disappointing to say the least. He was staked to a 3-0 lead but couldn't get out of the 6th. He lost Game 1 by allowing 4 runs in 5 2/3 innings, gave up 6 hits and walked 3. During the 6th inning he looked visibly shaken, bewildered during that inning & as he walked off he showed no emotion. This isn't the demeanor of a #1 pitcher, in my opinion.
The Real Aces in MLB
On the list of 55 pitchers I would rather start game #1 of the 2011 ALDS I have 18 that, if healthy, are a better start than Frankie. News today that Johan is starting to throw made me put him on this list as well as I will assume he will be ready to roll come October baseball (not that the Mets will be playing). Only 11% of those polled in my last article put Frankie in with these guys:
Liriano is good but not this good!
52% polled on this site say that Liriano is absolutely a #1 pitcher. An "ace" in the truest sense, not a top 10 guy, but definitely an ace. A guy that you hand the ball to in the exact scenario I am scared to death to so with FL. A playoff horse with the moxy, stuff & fortitude to give his team a shot to win. I say Liriano is absolutely not this guy. A number 2, no question, but not a number 1. This next list of guys are starters that, in my opinion are better candidates for that job than Frankie. These are borderline #1/ #2 guys. Liriano is very close to these guys but I give them all the edge. I also give an explanation why.
|19||Tim Hudson||5 top 10 Cy Young seasons, 7 200+ inning seasons & has 9 Postseason starts including a win versus the Yankees in the Postseason.|
|20||Roy Oswalt||6 Top 10 Cy Young seasons, 7 seasons of 200+ innings, career WHIP under 1.19, 5-1 in the Postseason. Pitched 7 or more innings in 20 of his 33 2010 starts|
|21||Fausto Carmona||Had a great finish to 2010 and completed his second 200+ inning season. Stuff is back & he has beaten the Yankees in the Post-season.|
|22||Mat Latos||Absolutely intimidating young pitcher. WHIP under 1.09, High K-rate & was 8th in the NL in Cy Young voting last year. More to come from Latos as he establishes himself as one of the top NL pitchers.|
|23||Tommy Hanson||Pitched 200+ innings in his first full MLB season. The highly touted "Future Ace of the Braves" is here now. WHIP under 1.18 & 4 years younger than Liriano.|
|24||Mark Buerhle||Has never thrown under 200 innnings in his full time career. 1.28 Career WHIP, has beaten the Red Sox in Postseason & pitched at least 7 innings in each PS start.|
|25||Brett Myers||Former first rounder who had the same 2010 WAR as Liriano. Pitched over 220 innings, Top 10 in NL Cy Young.|
|26||Clay Bucholz||Similar to Liriano in age & 2010 stats but Bucholz to me is just a better pitcher at this point. 6th in Cy Young voting last year and a year younger than FL.|
|27||Brett Anderson||Former 2nd round pick with tremendous tilt on his pitches, 4 years younger than Liriano & had a WHIP of under 1.20 in an injury shortened season. Watch out in 2011.|
|28||John Danks||Another former 1st rounder who has steadily progressed the last 3 years. 2 years younger than FL and has that fiery attitude to become the #1 starter in Chicago.|
|29||Dan Haren||6 straight 200+ innings, career WHIP under 1.20. Beat the Twins in the 2006 Postseason (Oh Radke!). Top 5 Cy Young in 2009.|
|30||Chad Billingsley||Another former 1st rounder who has decreased his WHIP each of the last 4 years. A year younger than Liriano and on the verge of turning into the true #1 the Dodgers saw him becoming.|
|31||Cole Hamels||A career WHIP under 1.18, 12 career Postseason starts, 6 PS Wins and is the same age as Liriano. 2 Seasons over 200+ innings and a Top 10 Cy Young in 2007.|
|32||Yovani Gallardo||Former 2nd round pick with a power arm, Gallardo was an All-Star in 2010, threw a solid Postseason start against the Phillies in 2008 & is 3 years younger than FL. (And what a hitter!)|
|33||Madison Bumgarner||It may be hard to gauge how good Bumgarner is but at 21, this former 1st round pick was fast tracked for good reason. He's going to be amazing! Not sure? Just re-watch his WS game start vs. the Rangers.|
|34||Matt Garza||Former 1st rounder of the Twins, Garza completed his 2nd straight 200+ innning season. He has beaten the Red Sox twice in postseason and threw a brilliant No-Hitter last year.|
|35||Dallas Braden||Threw a perfect game and HATES A-Rod. What's not to like about Braden? 5 Complete Games out of 30 starts and a WHIP under 1.16. With he and Anderson & Cahill, no wonder people like the A's in 2011!|
|36||Colby Lewis||Former 1st rounder who is a late bloomer. Now 31, he threw over 200 innings in his first full season, had a WHIP under 1.19 and beat the Yankees TWICE in the Postseason.|
|37||Johnny Cueto||He has improved his WHIP each of his first 3 seasons and, IMO, is primed for a huge year in 2011. He is 3 years younger than Liriano and has improved his command enough to be considered the #1 guy in Cincy|
|38||Ervin Santana||Born the same year as FL, he has 3 seasons of 200+ innings and has a Top 10 Cy Young season in 2008. He also has 3 seasons of 16 wins and beat the Yankees after throwing 5+ brilliant innings of relief in 2005 ALDS.|
|39||Trevor Cahill||22 year old righty starting his 3rd season in MLB. 2010 was a masterpiece of a season with an ERA of 2.92 a WHIP of 1.10 and went on to win 18 games. A 2010 All-Star and was 9th in Cy Young voting|
|40||Ricky Romero||Another former 1st Round pick, Romero pitched in just his 2nd season in MLB. He dramatically improved his WHIP down to 1.29, won 14 games and threw 210 innings. He is also a year younger than Liriano|
|41||Phil Hughes||3 years younger than Liriano, Hughes won 18 games last year, had a WHIP under 1.25 and threw a 7 inning gem against the Twins in the ALDS shutting us out on 4 hits.|
|42||Josh Beckett||If healthy, there is no question in my mind that Beckett is better than Liriano. That was the question last year though as this former 20 game winner struggled. He got 2nd place in the Cy Young vote in 2007|
The next group of guys is where I put Liriano. I will stand by my opinion that I would rather have them start game 1 than Liriano but it is so marginal I would rather not argue it at all. These guys have about the same shot of winning a game 1 in the ALDS as Liriano.
What do I want?
Again, this is not an indictment on Liriano. These are really great pitchers. But I just can't put Frankie on either of the other two lists until he does a few things first:
1. Go beyond 6 innings more often.
2. When things go bad, don't go "Cutler" on us.
3. Beat the Yankees in a post-season game. (Heck, I would take a regular season win. He hasn't done that either.)
4. 200+ innings, an "Ace" should not rely on his bullpen as much as Liriano does
5. Road ERA under 4.00. All Twins starters get the benefit of Target Field but we need a guy who will be able to bring that kind of performance on the road.
Wow, this wasn't fun. Defending myself on a topic where I have to break down a guy that I root for every 5th day is not how I like to start off my Friday, but I felt like I needed to. I hope, for all our sakes, that those who think he is a true "Ace" and the Twins are crazy to take the stance that they don't want to pay him like one, are right. Good luck to "The Franchise" in 2011. Maybe you will make a believer out of me.