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What’s Up With Francisco Liriano?

Francisco Liriano fantasy baseballI’m sure Francisco Liriano owners drafted him with quite a sense of confidence this past March. In one and a half seasons of MLB service, Liriano posted a career record of 18-7 with 211 strikeouts in 197 career innings.

Even we had a pretty good feeling about Liriano. We weren’t expecting him to return to 2006 form, but we still ranked him no. 56 in our preseason rankings, ahead of strikeout artists like Atlanta’s Javier Vazquez and Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto.

So what the heck is going on with Liriano – he of the 2-7 record, 6.12 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 64.7 innings?

In last night’s game against Seattle, Liriano pitched well, going six and giving up one earned and striking out 5. That said, why does a pitcher with the talent of Liriano have to pitch well each outing if he wants to save his spot in the rotation?

Our take on Liriano is that you shouldn’t look at his 2-7 record and make a final decision that he sucks and his fantasy value is in the toilet. (To determine that, you should probably look at his strikeout total and WHIP, also.)

That said, there are plenty of fantasy owners writing off his early season inconsistency and expecting a recovery, leaving his trade value quite high. Over the last 24 hours, the 2-7 Liriano has been dealt straight up for the likes of Ichiro (TRUE). However, he’s also been dealt straight up for David Price, Andre Ethier, Todd Helton, and Ben Zorbrist.

We can’t argue with those fantasy owners banking on the future. In 2006, Liriano went 8-2 in 11 starts during June and July, striking out 90 batters in just 76.7 innings. By comparison that same season, he went 4-0 in 15 appearances (3 starts) with 47 strikeouts in 38.3 innings during April and May.

Liriano also seems to love the home cookin’. Last season, Liriano went 4-2 at home versus 2-2 on the road after the missing the first half of the year. This season, 7 of Liriano’s 12 starts have been on the road, where he is 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA and 27 walks in 36 innings. His home numbers aren’t much better (1-3/5.34), but he only has 5 walks in 28.7 innings.

While we’re looking way ahead at pitching probables, it seems likely that 4 of Liriano’s 6 starts heading into the All-Star break could be at home.

So while the going hasn’t been good for Liriano so far in 2009, there might not be a better time to buy low. Expect him to get his act together over the next few weeks.

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