Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Liriano finally wins

It took six starts, but Francisco Liriano picked up his first victory of the season yesterday against the Detroit Tigers. He improved his control problems, as he threw 68 of 103 pitches for strikes (66.02 %) and tallied 9 strikeouts to go with that. And had Gardy not left him in for the eighth, his final line would have looked fairly nasty.

Denard Span (4 hits) and Michael Cuddyer (triple, 3 RBIs) led the offense, while Carlos Gomez also added a double in his lone plate appearance. I feel like mentioning every good at-bat Gomez has because I like him so much and am rooting so much for him to do well, and it has been such a struggle for him to this point.

Alexi Casilla's struggles, though, are an entirely different animal. Casilla had a single today, but his OPS is now all the way down to a season-low of .430. It's been almost a month of this putrid offense now, so I think it's time Casilla finds a pretty permanent place on the bench if, as many seem to believe, there are no other options in Rochester. Otherwise, that may be the best place for him. Just so you can have a visual: since April 10th when Casilla went 3-5 with a triple and had an OPS of .757, he has 6 total hits, 1 being a double, in 58 at-bats. That means he's hit .103/.185/.121 for the past four weeks. Nick Punto would be embarrassed by that even if it were August of 2007.

To go back to Liriano's control issue, though--it's no mystery that his control has suffered since his return from Tommy John surgery. It was most evident at the beginning of the 2008 season when he walked 13 batters in his first three starts (10 1/3 innings) and threw just 53.08 % of his pitches for strikes. But his control is still lacking now when it's compared to his All-Star season in 2006.

In 2006, he threw 66.67 % of his pitches for strikes and 66.43% after taking over a rotation spot on May 19th. Then, after the aforementioned horrid start to 2008, Liriano ended up throwing 61.08 % of his pitches for strikes over the course of the season. And this year he has thrown only a slightly better percentage for strikes-- 61.62 %. As one of many adjustments he has had to make since returning from the injury, I think improving this percentage (as he did today) will help him greatly in moving toward his absurdly dominant level of 2006.

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