As Will Smith's character in The Pursuit of Happyness said when asked what he would do if a man with no shirt was hired, "He must have had on some really nice pants." Smith's character Christopher Gardner ultimately got hired and became a millionaire. Before you hammer me and claim that I didn't watch baseball in 2011 if Liriano is ranked this high, hear me out.
There was a lot of bad that came to Liriano in 2011, but he did have the lowest line drive rate of his career by almost 3%. He also is going to be only 28 this year which essentially means he should be in the prime of his career. And finally, as Terrell Owen's publicist once said, Francisco has 25 million reasons (or more) why he should be alive. His contract is up after this year, and as Jonathan Papelbon proved this season and this offseason, that can serve as added motivation.
Skeptics Say: Liriano made just 24 starts last year and hit the DL on two separate occasions. He's never pitched 200 innings and gotten over 150 innings in a season only once (2010).
When he was on the field last year, his greatest problem was walks. His walk percentage was the highest among all pitchers with at least 130 innings last year. A big reason for the walks was throwing first pitch strikes. He went from throwing a first pitch strike almost 62% of the time in 2010 to just 49% of the time last year. As he fell behind in the count, Liriano was forced to throw more fastballs (probably his worst pitch) and less sliders (his best pitch).
Peer Comparison: Player A had 3.25 BB/9 and ERA of 5.01 as a 26-year-old. He then went on to have a 1.79 BB/9 and a 3.27 ERA the following year as a 27-year-old.
Player B had a 3.17 BB/9 and 5.78 ERA as a 30-year-old. He then followed that up with a 2.42 BB/9 and 2.89 ERA as a 31-year-old.
Player C had a 3.72 BB/9 and 5.32 ERA as a 33-year-old. He then had a 2.34 BB/9 and 3.72 ERA as a 34-year-old.
Player D had a 3.52 BB/9 and a 4.35 ERA as a 28-year-old. He then had a 1.84 BB/9 and a 3.99 ERA as a 29-year-old.
Player E had a 3.36 BB/9 and a 3.90 ERA as a 32-year-old. He came back with a 1.66 BB/9 and a 2.39 ERA* as a 33-year-old. I'll explain that asterisk.
Player F had a 3.51 BB/9 and a 4.16 ERA as a 36-year-old. Then had a 2.86 BB/9 and a 3.28 ERA as a 37-year-old.
Players A & B are Josh Beckett. Player C is Javier Vazquez. Players D, E, and F are Andy Pettitte. In terms of name recognition in fantasy baseball, these three pitchers over the span of the last decade (minus last year for Pettitte) have been a fixture in mixed leagues. Like Liriano, they have all had spikes in their walk rates in the middle of their careers and sandwiched between relatively very good seasons. At points in their careers or even their careers in general all of these players could be considered inconsistent. However in their primes (age 27 through 30), they would not be on the board at pick number 144.
Team Outlook: If the Twins could hit the rest button, Liriano would have been dealt last year at this time for a king's ransom. As it is, the Twins could still trade him this offseason, but it wouldn't get them nearly as much in return. Look for him to stay in Minnesota which isn't the worst thing in the world. Liriano gave up 10 home runs on the road last season and just 4 at home.
What They're Saying: CBS Sportsline: #49 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: Not Ranked in Top 75 Starting Pitchers & Not Ranked in Top 250 Overall; RotoChamp: Not Ranked in Top 300
Projection: Bill James projects Liriano will throw 180 innings and strikeout 8.75 hitters per 9 innings with a sub 4.00 ERA. His projection isn't far off from Ervin Santana's 2010 season - a player that was rated 152 overall by Yahoo last year. Maybe he isn't 144, but he's much closer to the top 150 than he is the top 300.
10 wins 184 K 3.80 ERA 1.34 WHIP in 184 innings