Monday, August 2, 2010

On Liriano & Hellickson

As most Twins fans know, Francisco Liriano has been straight dealin' lately and his latest gem was yesterday afternoon against the hapless Seattle Mariners. Liriano struck out 11 while walking 2 in 7 innings of 2-hit ball. But not for two hiccups against Detroit, Liriano has only allowed more than 3 runs in 2 of his last 14 outings. Oh, and he's currently working on 21 straight scoreless innings, striking out 25 and walking 6 over that span. He's been downright ridiculous and as Gleeman pointed out today, Liriano has been the best pitcher in baseball this season, according to FIP and a wide margin. He's the front-line ace he was in 2006, though hopefully this time there will be no more injuries. I looked deeper into the statistics to see just how similar he is to Liriano circa 2006:

2.37 GB/FB
21.3 LD %
55.3 GB%
23.4 FB%
13.2 HR/FB%
2.35 xFIP
144/32 K/BB

1.97 GB/FB
20.1 LD%
53.0 GB%
26.9 FB%
2.1 HR/FB%
2.83 xFIP
150/38 K/BB [hat tip to FanGraphs for the stats]

Liriano had pitched 121 innings in 2006 and has now pitched 136 innings so far this season, so the comparison is of a two similar sample sizes. One thing I noted right awayt was that his K/BB ratios were almost identical indicating this his control is as good as it was in 2006. One thing that Liriano has undoubtedly benefited from this year is an extremely low HR/FB%, even despite a higher FB% than in '06. Another reason Liriano is so good is because he induces ground-balls at such a high rate, which leads to more double-plays and more outs in general. The numbers suggest that he isn't quite a copy of his 2006 self, but it's close and he's still quite dominating.

I'm watching the Twins B-team now as they trail 4-1 in the 6th inning (arg) and the Rays have a youngster on the mound that they just called up and he deserves a little discussion. The pitcher's name is Jeremy Hellickson and given his minor-league track record, I'm surprised his call-up was not met with more fanfare. Hellickson was drafted by the Rays in the 4th round of the 2005 draft and has absolutely obliterated the competition in the minors. In 579 minor league innings, Hellickson compiled a 2.66ERA and 1.05 WHIP to go along with 630Ks and only 135BBs. He was the MVP of this year's minor-league all-star game and how he is not up there with the Strasburg's and Heyward's in terms of hype is somewhat baffling. We'll see how much of a Big League taste he gets this time around, but I can't imagine that he wouldn't be a full-time member of the Rays starting rotation next season. Watch out for this kid, he looks like something special.

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