Fransisco Liriano had another unfortunate outing today, pitching only 4 innings, surrounding 4 ER to further diminish the Twins record in day games to 3-12 and on the road to 5-16, dropping the Twins a full 6 games behind the Tigers in the loss column.
Liriano's return last season after his time in Rochester made a lot of Twins' fans hopeful about good things to come this year, based on his successful outings. Has anything changed with Liriano between last season and this season? The answer is yes.
If anything, his velocity is higher this season (average FB 91.5 mph vs. 90.9 mph in 2008, average slider 85.7 mph vs. 83.7 mph in 2008, average change up 84.1 mph vs. 82.1 mph in 2008).
However, there are 2 things different:
He is throwing his changeup less
Last season, Liriano threw 20% changeups. This season just 13.1% of his pitches have been changeups. For comparison purposes: the last three years, Johan Santana threw change ups for about 29% of his pitches and in his Cy Young years Pedro Martinez threw change ups for at least 20% of his pitches. Frankie needs to forget about going to Hollywood and start throwing his change up more.
His release point is all over the place
Here is Liriano's release point from this game (courtesy Brooksbaseball.net) :
as you can see his release point is very inconsistent and their is a good two feet horizontal difference among the release points of all his pitches. Fortunately, unlike Baker, Liriano is not tipping his pitches. Sliders, Fastballs and Change ups are released from all over the place, but they are mixed.
Let's compare this to Liriano's release point from one of his successful outings last September against the Tigers. This is his release point from an early September game, when he pitched 7 innings, walking one, stiking out 9 and having 2 ER:
Even though a few pitches were way off to the right, the main core was fairly consistent.
Let's superimpose the two images:
the release point cores of the successful Liriano (black) and unsuccessful Liriano (red) are hereby circled. As you can see, not only the successful Liriano release points are tighter, they are closer to his body. When he throws further away from his body, bad things happen.
What does need to be done for Liriano to be fixed:
a. Get him throw more change ups and
b. Correct his mechanics so his release point is i. tighter and ii. closer to his body.
Simpler said that done, but Andy is the guy with the supposed magic wand that can fix every ailing pitcher.
But is he?
Liriano has been “atrocious”
Perkins has been “atrocious”
Baker has been “atrocious”
Crain has been “atrocious”
Breslow had been “atrocious”
do you think it might actually mean that Andy is the “atrocious” one here? This is a massive drop of performance in more than half of the pitching staff. Last time that happened to a team, the pitching coach was fired (see: Tigers, Detroit, 2008). Who can fix this.
My choice is one of the best pitching coaches available, who happens to be in the Twins' organization (and by coincidence is fully bi-lingual in English and Spanish, thus filling up another void in the team) : Bobby Cuellar.
Cuellar was the pitching coach of the Mariners from 1995-96, the Expos from 1997-2000 and the Twins' AAA teams from 2002-2005 and is now the Red Wings' pitching coach.
Let's look at his track record with different pitchers:
Before Cuellar: 4.74 ERA, 1.511 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 1.75 K/BB
After Cuellar: 2.99 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 2.80 K/BB
Before Cuellar: 3.70 ERA, 1.195 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.17 K/BB
After Cuellar: 1.90 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 4.55 K/BB
Before Cuellar: 3.19 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 2.83 K/BB
After Cuellar: 2.48 ERA, 1.045 WHIP, 12.3 K/9, 4.52 K/BB
Before Cuellar: 2.76 ERA, 1.299 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 2.20 K/BB
After Cuellar: 2.17 ERA, 1.081 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 3.56 K/BB
Before Cuellar: 7.36 ERA, 1.727 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 0.80 K/BB
After Cuellar: 1.51 ERA, 0.818 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 3.63 K/BB (same season trade from PHI to SEA)
So, if you were the Twins' brass, who would you rather have as a pitching coach:
the guy who straighten up to Randy Johnson in ‘95 resulting to an 18-2, 2.48 ERA and 192 K season and started the streak of his Cy Young years,
the guy who taught the change up to Pedro Martinez in ‘97 resulting to a 17-8, 1.90 ERA and 219 K season and started the streak of his Cy Young years,
the guy who taught the change up to Johan Santana in ‘02 while in the minors, resulting to an
‘04 20-6, 2.61 ERA and 182 K season and started the streak of his Cy Young years,