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Their 8-22 record said the Minnesota Twins needed something to spark them. Maybe moving Francisco Liriano to the bullpen won't do the trick, but it's a start in correcting a major flaw.
There's the fantasy baseball notion of buying low. Then there's buying subterranean. Liriano's 9.45 ERA simply offers the hope that he knocks that down significantly to a still-ugly number, but since someone ditched him and your team's ERA starts with a clean slate, you're along for the ride. His velocity has been at normal levels, so buying him low in AL-only isn't a bad thought, considering basic regression strategy.
But this isn't cut-and-dry. There's been plenty of talk over recent years of Minny altering Liriano's approach; the organization prefers their hurlers to let batters put the ball in play and rely on their defense and comfy park.
Well, a whopping 52 percent of his pitches, per Fangraphs' PITCHf/x, have been two-seamers, compared to a mere 4.3 percentage of four-seam fastballs. Yikes. Safe to say the tailing (in some cases downward-moving) heat has been his biggest vulnerability. Sometimes that can be a strikeout pitch, and its movement has been noticeable, but Liriano's has clearly been his slider during his peak years; this is a case of Minny trying to recruit him for their contact-creating cult.
Indeed, he tastes a hint of arsenic in the Kool Aid, as evidenced by his 25.3 percent liner rate and numerous dominance indicators that have tumbled. These sorts of trends justify garishly high opponent in-play clips, like Liriano's .365, regardless of player history.
Though this could be fuel for Matt Capps haters looking for a new stopper, the Twinkies want him back in the rotation at some point. If they allow him to be the Liriano of old - overpowering first, location second - and he shows enough improvement to regain a rotation gig, you can start believing in a (relative) turnaround. Maybe his subpar left-on-base percentage will rise if he can induce more empty hacks.
Unless you can comfortably tuck him away on a cavernous roster and league, mixed formatters shouldn't remain loyal. This could be a lengthy recovery.
As for his replacement, P.J. Walters, lump him in with the other innings-gobbling Twins tossers as an AL-only warm body. His farm command has been nice, but his nibbling won't go over well.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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