Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Best #5 Starter in Baseball

Francisco Liriano sewed up the 5th starter job this afternoon by pitching 6 scoreless innings against the Pirates. Well, they were wearing Pittsburgh uniforms. As was regularly the case in winter ball, Liriano devoured the scrubs, allowing 3 H and 3 BB (shocking - 1 more than he'd allowed all spring!) with 8 K. That brings his spring line to:

20 IP, 19 H, 6 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 30 K, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 0.5 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, 13.5 K/9, 2.33 G/F

And here's what he did in winter ball:

48.2 IP, 32 H, 4 ER, 0 HR, 7 BB, 64 K, 0.74 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 1.3 BB/9, 11.8 K/9, 1.55 G/F

And here's what he did in 2006:

129 IP, 89 H, 29 ER, 9 HR, 32 BB, 144 K, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 0.7 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 10.7 K/9, 2.19 G/F

Some of his spring training numbers aren't quite as good as 2006, and it's a tiny sample size, and the competition was often less than stellar. But remember, if he's even 4/5 the pitcher he was his rookie year (WHIP <> 8.0) he'll be one of the 20 best starters in the league, and the best guy in the Twins' rotation. His 20 IP this spring are safely within those parameters.

I'm not sure what it served to wait so long to give Liriano this job. Even now, Gardy is reluctant to confirm that he won the spot. Is that out of respect for what Brian Duensing did last season? Even he must know that he's nowhere near as good as Liriano. If he shuts out the Yankees for 6 innings tomorrow, would they give him the spot instead? I think there's something to be said for decisiveness - it must be helpful to players to know what their role will be as soon as possible. At least they'd probably like to know more than a week before the season starts.

I still expect Duensing to make the team as the long reliever, and he'll be well suited to that role. I'm rooting for Wilson Ramos to win the backup C job, and it sounds like most of the Twins' players and coaches are, too. They want to start the season with the best players available, and they know Drew Butera isn't the best. Whatever they decide, hopefully we'll all know about it tomorrow.

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