Assessing Francisco Liriano
This isn't the same blog entry I would have written two weeks ago. Current reports are that Liriano's elbow soreness is 1) expected to clear up without surgery, 2) related to weakness in his shoulder (he may put extra stress on the elbow by favoring a weak shoulder, 3) may, or may not, keep him out of action the rest of the year. I imagine the Twins will be extremely cautious with him. The good news is that he was apparently shut down before the soreness and strain turned into an actual ligament tear.
In the long run, I'm more worried about his shoulder than the elbow. He had chronic shoulder problems in the Giants system, which is a big reason why they were willing to trade him in the Pierzynski/Nathan deal. The news that the shoulder is still an issue and has apparently led to the elbow problem does not give me a great deal of confidence in Liriano's long-term durability. It helps that he is in the Twins system: Minnesota is one of the better teams when it comes to keeping their pitchers healthy. But as much as we have to love Liriano's peak performance, it's quite possible that he'll never be very durable.
I did a Crystal Ball for Liriano last September. As you can see, he has greatly exceeded my expectations for him this year.
G GS IP W-L ER K BB ERA K/9
Crystal Ball 2006 32 27 157 8-8 80 122 68 4.59 6.99
Reality 2006 27 15 119 12-3 29 142 32 2.19 10.74
I had originally planned to write up a new Crystal Ball for you, but at this point, not knowing how or when he will come back from the injury, that seems pretty pointless right now. The original Crystal Ball had Liriano with a career record of 136-102 (.571), with 1999 innings pitched, a career 3.85 ERA, and 104 career saves (projecting that he ends up as a closer due to an inability to stay healthy). Although the CB was not right for 2006, if his arm problems do become chronic, the end-result may end up being pretty accurate after all.