Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Liriano mystery

Wednesday was yet another game in which Francisco Lirano in many respects didn't pitch poorly, but still gave up too many runs.

What killed him Wednesday — and has been his biggest problem statistically this season — was the long ball. The Pirates, not a notably powerful club, hit a pair of two-run homers off Liriano, and that was their scoring (at least until they got to look at Sean Henn and Luis Ayala, but we'll get to those two later.)

From the AP game story: "It's really frustrating, because every time I miss one pitch it just changes the whole game," Liriano said. "I don't know what to do anymore."

For the season, Liriano has now allowed 14 homers in 84 2/3 innings — almost 1.5 per nine innings. That's a high rate, and its compounded by the walks (Liriano has now walked 36 men; no other Twins pitcher has walked 25).

But the rest of Liriano's line score Wednesday wasn't bad at all. He allowed just nine baserunners in seven innings (eight hits, one walk) , struck out six and threw about twice as many strikes (70) as balls (36).

Still a work in progress — but one with signs of improvement.

Henn, on the other hand — 11 balls, six strikes. Ayala — 16 balls, 17 strikes. Not good on either count.


Joe Mauer went 1-for-4 with a walk, and even the double wasn't well hit. Season average now .425. Twins and Pirates have a day game Thursday, and I rather expect him to either get a full day off or a DH day.

I wish I had this on tape: I caught a bit of the White Sox-Cubs broadcast on WGN — the White Sox crew — and in the seventh inning Steve Stone asked Ken Harrelson if he thought Mauer could hit .400.

Harrelson said — and I think I have this wording exactly right — "Joe Mauer can do anything he wants to."

The Hawk went on at length about Mauer: In more than 50 years in this game, I've never seen anybody like him. He does everything so smooth and effortlessly. He throws, smooth and effortless. He runs, smooth and effortless. He hits, smooth and effortless. He's just a unique athlete. Fifty years, I've never seen anything like him.

At some point Stone said something about Justin Morneau and the obvious force in his swing as compared to Mauer, and The Hawk said: "Justin Morneau is the antithesis of Joe Mauer."

Which made me laugh. I suspect that there are at least two Twins broadcasters who could neither pronounce nor define antithesis.

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