Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Francisco Liriano's Strange No-Hitter

I'm not going to spend too much time dissecting Francisco Liriano's first no-hitter of the 2011 season. There is already more analysis on the Internet than one person can absorb but I'd be remiss if I didn't get a little Off Base perspective on it. I've always been a fan of Liriano and had high hopes for him to at least hover around his stellar 2.66 FIP 2010 season. But 2011 couldn't have gotten off to a worse start unless Liriano had recorded a DUI (owns one in 2006) or fallen down a flight of stairs carrying deer meat.

In April, Liriano sported a 9.13 ERA with 18 walks, 18 strikeouts and 4 home runs. And all of the surrounding metrics are just as ugly. His walk, flyball and home run rates are all up and strand percentage and velocity are down from 2010. I think I saw him throw it underhand once. But in May, Liriano has a no-hitter. It wasn't pretty and it was against the White Sox but I'm pretty sure it still counts.

I still believe in Liriano's talents. The missing velo might very well be one of those "that time of year" things and the relative ineffectiveness of his slider may be a confidence issue. So Tuesday's no-hitter might end up being the start that turns Liriano's season around. He no-hit the White Sox on 123 pitches (66 strikes) while walking 6 and only striking out 2. But if you can look past that and the fact that the White Sox are 24th in baseball in wOBA and last in WAR, then maybe you can see some hope for Liriano.

However you want to look at it though, Liriano's no-hitter was one of those little nuggets of randomness that baseball is known for. It was flukey and took a perfect storm of strange sequences to get there but that's how the game works. Liriano was little erratic but kept the ball down and kept it in the infield when he needed to. Amazingly, he had 6 innings with 12 or fewer pitches despite throwing first pitch balls to 19 of the 30 hitter he faced.

At the end of the season, though, most of us will just remember that Liriano had one of the four no hitters of the 2011 season.

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