The Twins have announced that Francisco Liriano is headed back in the starting rotation and will face the Oakland A’s at Target Field on Wednesday. So why do you move Francisco Liriano back in the starting rotation? Simply put, the Twins have no choice, they are out of ideas, they have tried everything they can think of to get Francisco back on track in his contract year and if anything, Liriano has gotten worse. I don’t know Liriano personally and according to what I have heard and seen in print, he is a nice guy, a quiet individual that works hard and goes about his business. I can only assume what they say about the man is true but when I look at Liriano I see a shy individual that can not handle pressure, not everyone is good in a pressure environment, some thrive under pressure and others find it impossible to deal with. I think Liriano sees himself falling into a deeper and deeper funk and doesn’t know how to stop from falling into the bottomless pit. He has no confidence, the team around him is playing poorly and he tries harder and harder to become the pitcher that everyone says he should be. But the harder you try the less successful you are going to be, pressure is a difficult thing to deal with and not everyone can handle the heat. The Twins coaching staff, the press and Twins blogs are all over Liriano and he can’t escape the negative things being said about him anywhere he goes. Everyone has an idea on how he should pitch in order for him to meet their lofty expectations, but sometimes you can not see the forest for the trees. The man has no place to go, everyone expects him to pitch like he did in 2006 when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 16 starts at the age of 22. But look at that 2006 team, that team finished the season 96-66 and won the AL Central. Look at their starters, Johan Santan was 19-6 in 34 starts, Carlos Silva was 11-15 in 31 starts, Brad Radke went 12-9 in 28 starts, Boof Bonser was 7-6 in 18 starts, Scott Baker had 16 starts and went 7-8, Matt Garza had 9 starts and Kyle Lohse had 8 starts. Garza and Liriano were the babies in the group, both 22 years of age, they had no pressure on them at all, they just took the mound and let their natural God-given gifts take over. After Santana left the Twins after the 2007 season and Liriano came back from TJ surgery in 2008 he was expected to take over as the Twins ace, but apparently that was not a role that Liriano could take on.
This year Francisco Liriano had a great spring training, Liriano threw a team leading 27 innings with 33 strikeouts,and 5 walks in 7 starts and posted a 2.33 ERA and batters only hit .250 against Francisco. Once the season started and games started to count, Liriano folded like a $5 umbrella in a hurricane. Liriano does not have the personality or temperament to be an ace in the big leagues, some are born to lead and others find that role too much to handle. But that does not mean that Liriano can not be a solid contributor to the pitching staff.,
To me the problem with Francisco is all about his control or lack there of. Since Liriano came back from TJ surgery in 2008 his bases on ball for 9 innings have gotten progressively worse going from 3.8 in 2008 to 6.9 in 2012. His hits per 9 innings have been in the 8.4 to 9.7 range with the exception of this year when they have jumped to 11.6. When you get as many suggestions as Liriano is probably getting now it gets very confusing and you get further and further away from what made you successful in the first place. The Twins are not going anywhere this year so they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting Frankie back in the starting rotation and just letting him pitch through this. He either does it or he doesn’t, but let him do it his way, he has earned that right. He is in the last year of his contract and there is no way the Twins will bring him back for any reason so the best the team can hope for is that Liriano can turn it around to some degree and that the Twins can move him for a prospect or two. The Twins have had their chances to move Liriano over the last few years but were not willing to pull the trigger on a deal because as is their history indicates, they hate to make a deal that could come back to haunt them. Some teams believe that it is better to trade a player a year or two too early rather than hold on to them and have their value decrease, the Twins are not one of those teams.
Is someone to blame for the situation that Liriano and the Twins find themselves in? I don’t know the answer to that and I am not sure anyone does but sometimes we all have to accept that things do not always go how we expect them to go and we just have to move on. Many years ago when I was a technology manager for Norwest Banks I had an employee that I managed that was a very good employee but never took the next step or training necessary to achieve what I though he was capable of achieving and it was frustrating to me. So during one of the annual review sessions I asked him what he didn’t put in the extra effort to move up the ladder and take on a bigger role and make more money. he looked at me and said, “why? I am perfectly happy with my current role and I have no interest in taking on more responsibility”. That answer surprised me but when I took the time to think over what he said, it made perfect sense. Sometimes we try to fit square pegs into round holes because we think it is the right thing to do but that is not how life should be.