MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 15: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins reacts during the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 15, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hello, fellow baseball fan or front-office person! This missive is intended for those of you who aren't intimately familiar with Twins lefty Francisco Liriano. You're a fan of another team, maybe, or you might even be a team employee that's looking at Liriano's decent numbers and his disappearing slider, and you're thinking to yourself, "Hey, I bet that guy would look good in (insert your team's colors and/or jersey style here)."
I'd like it if I could completely explain Francisco Liriano to you. Many have attempted to do so. His mechanics have been pored over with a fine-toothed comb. We've gone deep inside the numbers to find some telling percentage or ratio that would explain what's going wrong and how to fix him. We have turned him upside down and sideways, flipped him inside out, and examined him from every angle, and it still hasn't helped.
We still have nights like last night in Pittsburgh, where Liriano cruised for six innings, went out for the seventh, and melted down. His numbers for the night look good: Six and two-thirds innings, four hits, one run, six strikeouts, two walks. But that doesn't encompass the panic of watching a pitch that brushed a hitter's jersey snowball into a bases-loaded, lights-flashing, all-stations disaster.
Liriano, then, remains inexplicable - to the fans, to the front office, to the coaching staff, even - judging by his quotes - to himself. Traditional reasoning, stats, and analysis don't help. And so, let me turn to the only thing I can think of in this situation:
metaphor simile. Here's what it's like watching Francisco Liriano pitch for your team:
- It's like watching a man dismantle a bomb, only the man has ten thumbs and is also actually a wolverine; you're oddly hopeful, but still fairly confident it will end in disaster.
- It's like a seal trying to balance a Ford Fiesta on its nose; you're interested to see if he can do it, but also pretty sure it can't be done.
- It's like a man walking a tightrope while being pelted with bowling balls from below; there are multiple ways for everything to go wrong at any time.
- It's like seeing a man strap himself to an jet engine at the top of a ski ramp; you can't help thinking it was a bad idea from the beginning.
- It's like a drunk on a pair of roller skates; when you reflect later, you realize that the miracle was that he stayed upright as long as he did.
- It's like a person who jumps on the field during a game trying to avoid the cops; it's ultimately futile, but it's entertaining to watch, unless you happen to be invested in that person not failing.
- It's like a severely claustrophobic and acrophobic person riding in a small airplane; panic is never far from the surface.
- It's like a soldier attacking a fort armed with only a water pistol and a stale loaf of bread; you can't help thinking him ill-equipped for the job.
- It's like a four-year-old trying to lecture a remedial calculus class; you're pretty sure he's got no better idea of what's going on than anyone else does.
- It's like being promised ice cream following dental surgery; you have hope, but mostly it's just the hope that it's over soon.
NOTE: The original version of this column listed these as "metaphors," which is of course incorrect. Simile is what I meant, but I wrote while I was tired. Metaphor would be if I wrote, "Francisco Liriano is a tumbling, airborne feather, buffeted by the winds of instruction and advice: affected, but seldom set on one straight path." Or something like that. Still kind of tired.