La Velle E Neal is just a reporter, man, he just reports the news. Yesterday, he heard that the Twins were considering a reunion with Francisco Liriano, whom they traded to Chicago late last season. It’s not Neal’s fault that he heard it, and it’s certainly not his fault that he reported it, but the reaction was one of dismay. Incredulity. Anger?
Well, here’s the deal on Liriano. They know what they can get out of Liriano, have seen the raw talent he possesses when he is healthy, and know what kind of a disaster the rest of the team was last year. Each of the past two seasons, Liriano’s ERA was in the 5 run range, but also in the last two years, his peripherals were much better than his end results.
His strike out rate was in the 9/game range, but his home run rate per fly balls was unusually high. He had a high fly ball rate, which would typically be fine in Target Field, but Josh Willingham was the left fielder. If you take all of those factors and calculate his FIP (Fielder independent pitching) and xFIP (with park factors included in the calculations), Liriano’s ERA should have been in the low 4 run range. Bill James projects him around 4.21 next year.
After two bad seasons with raw stats but with better than expected peripherals, Liriano is a bargain find. If he matches his peripherals, he is a pitcher with an ERA in the 4-4.25, with a potential for covering 180 innings. It’s exactly the type of deal and player that the Twins would be looking at to cheaply fill out their rotation. Perhaps it just hurts now that there is a name tacked on to it.
(For the record, I believe the Twins will add multiple pitchers, but I anticipate the Twins’ best acquisition will come via trade)