Fantasy Baseball: What to Make of Francisco Liriano?

Jun 14, 2012

francisco-liriano
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In his past three starts the enigmatic Francisco Liriano is 1-2 despite a 2.55 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts in 17-2/3 innings. Before you start automatically penciling him into your fantasy lineups, it should be noted that he allowed four runs in 5-2/3 innings to the bottom-dwelling Cubs in his last start.
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So what should you do with Liriano?
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That’s not a simple question. Based on talent alone he would be one of the premier pitchers in the league and owned in much more than roughly 30.0 percent of Yahoo! and 20.0 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.
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Liriano’s numbers (6.45 ERA, 1.68 WHIP) are skewed by his horrific start. In April he went 0-3 with a 11.02 ERA and a 2.33 WHIP over 16-1/3 innings. Let’s pause for a second and reflet on how bad he was. Wow.
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OK. Since that rough start, he’s still just 1-4, but his ERA is down to 4.33 and his WHIP to 1.39. Talk about a serious improvement. A major part of that improvement is cutting his walks per nine innings down from 7.2 to 4.8. He still has work to do, but that is a vast improvement.
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In theory, smoother sailing should lie ahead. He has been a train wreck in his career with a 6.27 April ERA. He improves to 4.32 in May. Now the juicy part. Up until September, when his ERA balloons to 5.29, he is sitting pretty with a 3.35 June mark, a 3.20 July mark, and a 4.01 August mark.
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Part of his issue has been bad luck. His .340 BABIP is thirty points higher than his career mark. It was .393 in putrid April, but has improved to .322 in May, and is .276 through the early part of June.
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Liriano is an enigma. That is no secret. He is the ultimate risk/reward player. You don’t know if he’ll go out and toss a no-hitter or if he’ll give up eight runs in 1-2/3 innings. The best thing you can do now is take calculated risks with him when the match-up appears favorable.
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