Bryan Smith has a nice run through some top prospects who pitched last night over at Baseball Analysts. Here's what he says about Francisco Liriano, whom the A's beat last night:
Simply put, Liriano was just too hittable yesterday. It did not look like the Francisco I saw at the Futures Game, the point in time in which his tear really took off. Still, there was a smell of dominance in the air, as despite struggles in his 3.2 innings of work, Liriano managed to strike out six hitters. Few pitchers have no-hit stuff (3 good pitches, none under 85 mph) as consistently as Liriano, who even amidst a bad performance showed why he is top dog in a loaded Minnesota minor league system.
Liriano's "stuff" was indeed impressive. But except for one at-bat against Mark Kotsay, he never really had the A's fooled: when he got them out, he simply overpowered them. It didn't look like he had mastered the art of deception yet.
Still, if I were a Twins fan, I'd be excited about him. A pitcher can't learn to overpower, but he can learn to deceive.
He's very reminicient of Rich Harden when he first came up. Harden at first relied primarily on overpowering people, and was very inconsistent as a result. If his control was off, he'd struggle, walking people or throwing fastballs down the middle. That's what happened to Liriano last night.
Harden spent about a year in the majors before he learned to combine his electric stuff with deception. When that clicked for him, Harden become one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he could win even without pinpoint control.
Until he started pulling muscles, that is, but that's another story.
With pitchers like Harden and Liriano, this seems to be a natural process. You overpower people all the way up to the majors, where the hitters make you make an adjustment. It probably takes pitchers like that a year or two to figure it out.
Unless you're Felix Hernandez, of course. He might be an exception, although he did get roughed up a bit in his last outing. Still, from what I've seen of him, he showed up in the major leagues with both electric stuff and ace-like deception at the age of nineteen. Remarkable.
The Twins have had a rough year, but when Liriano figures it out, and pairs up with Johan Santana, the Twins will be competitive again, I'm sure, just from those two guys alone.
Today, the A's go for a sweep. I'll be at the ballpark. Pictures later...