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Liriano's New Deal

It’s been a long road back from Tommy John surgery for Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano.  After a tough two years following his 2007 surgery, the lefty had a very good 2010 season going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.263 WHIP.  A 115 ERA+ and .305 wOBA, while not anywhere near his 2006 breakout season numbers, may signify the southpaw is regaining his form.

Minnesota and Liriano avoided arbitration and agreed to terms on a one year, $4.3 million dollar deal.  The deal makes sense for the Twins, as  there is little to suggest at this point that Liriano can't build on his 2010 season.  However, given the uncertainty surrounding Tommy John recoveries, the organization won’t be held down by a lengthy or expensive contract should Liriano fail to progress or stay healthy.  On the flip side, should Liriano improve further this season, showing flashes of his 2006 self, he’ll be free to seek a big contract in free agency at the end of the season, a process the small market Twins will likely avoid.

Liriano made several adjustments last year that helped improve his overall numbers.  One in particular was his increased plate control.  In 2009, Liriano’s control wasn’t very good and as a result he was hit fairly hard up in the zone.

Francisco Liriano 2009In 2010, Liriano managed to keep the ball down a bit more, resulting in much better numbers against both lefties and righties.

Francisco Liriano 2010Liriano’s line against LHB in 2009 was .257/.323/.329.  This improved to .223/.254/.283 in 2010.  And more importantly, his .284/.368/.520 line against RHB in 2009 dropped to .263/.333/.382 in 2010.  All told, this improvement amounted to a 64 point drop in wOBA against both left handed batters and right handed batters.

If these numbers continue moving in the same direction, and he stays healthy, Francisco Liriano may find himself the object of a bidding war come next winter.


Line to Colorado

With rumors flying that , Colorado seems the most likely destination.  The Rockies and Young offer a great fit, since their offensive styles match.  Over the last three seasons, 20% of the balls the Rockies hitters put in play went for line drives.  With a large outfield that forces the fielders to play deep, line drives have a great chance of dropping in, and even hitting gaps for extra bases. 

Michael Young over that same time knocked out 342, 21.9% of his balls in play.  Even more impressive is that 247 of his 549 hits (including the post season) came on his line drives.  That's 45%. 

Young's line drive rate actually fell off in this time span.  Earlier in the decade he would often be in the mid 20s in terms of line drive percentage.  With the major league median around 18%, Young is still above average, and the big ball park in Denver will only add to his hit totals.


Conor's Eye for the Corner

Conor Jackson was riding high coming out of the 2008 season.  He was in his prime at age 26 and posted a .300/.376/.446 slash line, with his BA and OBP setting career highs.  Illness and injury set him back the last two seasons, however.  His .218/.313/.303 line since the start of 2009 won't impress anyone.  Now with the Oakland Athletics, a return to health might mean a return to great hitting.

There is a change in Jackson that might help him crack the starting lineup.  Through his illness, his batting eye improved.  In 2008, look where he swung and took the most:

Conor Jackson, pitch frequency on swings, 2008Conor Jackson, pitch frequency taking pitches, 2008Conor likes to swing at pitches up in the strike zone.  Although not shown here, he tends to swing at pitches that drop less than expected, and takes pitches that drop more than expected.  That remained true in 2009-2010, but he started laying off pitches on the low outside corner in the strike zone.

Conor Jackson, pitch frequency on swings, 2009-2010Conor Jackson, pitch frequency taking pitches, 2009-2010He's more willing to go after low pitches, and he's taking fewer in the zone.  Better strike zone judgment means more walks, and maybe more calls his way.

On the other hand, it could be he doesn't hit the low, outside pitch all that well, and he's better off waiting for something up higher.  We'll see.  The Athletics are big on process, and someone who takes a ball and swings at a strike should do well in their system.

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