Is Francisco Liriano's Slow Start a Reason for Concern?

Forrest KobayashiSenior Analyst IApril 16, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Pitcher Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the New York Yankees during a Grapefruit League Spring Training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 28, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Twins boast one of the best young rotations in all of Major League Baseball. Francisco Liriano is the ace of the rotation, but he has started off the season slow, with a 0-2 record with a ERA of 6.94.

Does Liriano have what it takes to rebound from these numbers?

Once heralded as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Liriano is starting back up full-time in 2009 as a starter for the Twins (after Tommy John surgery). One thing benefited Liriano was his ability to overwhelm hitters with his stuff. Liriano averaged 12.8 K/9 and 10.7 K/9 in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In 2008, however, the strikeout-per-nine innings dropped to a career-low 7.9. Will his pre-Tommy-John stuff return?

So much of Liriano’s value is based around his ability to strike hitters out, and if he can only post eight strikeouts every nine innings, we may have a bit of an issue here. Liriano has always had average control, which is acceptable for a guy who can fan as many as 13 batters every nine innings. Liriano also has to limit the number of fly balls he gives up, but that is something that should improve as he accumulates the innings.

Something else you may want to consider when considering Liriano on your roster is the fact that the Twins simply do not have a good offense. With the exception of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, there are few bats that are game-changers, and Liriano is bound to lose games he should win.

All in all, Liriano is a solid buy in 2009, but be advised that he comes with a bit of risk.

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