I was looking through my just delivered copy of Baseball Prospectus 2009 (a joy to read) and I was trying to come up with the player who will most determine his team’s success. Sure Albert Pujols seems to be the player who will bring the most VORP, but what he provides seem to be a given. What I was looking for was the player that could be dominant, but has as good of a chance of spending a good portion of the year on the IR. The player whose health determines if his team might finish 1st or last in its division. Meet Francisco Liriano.
If you forgot about Liriano, from the time he was brought up by the Twins in 2006, he was the best pitcher in MLB. Yeah, even better than Johan Santana. He was 12-3, with a 2.16 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. I’m still convinced that the Twins win the World Series in 2006, if he doesn’t blow out his arm in August. Considering how dominant the Twins are in the Metrodome (Liriano’s ERA is almost 2 runs better at home), it would have been hard to bet against Liriano and Santana in the playoffs.
Although Liriano didn’t look as good as the fucking freak he was before the injury, he still was pretty nasty in 2008. If the Twins don’t wait so long to bring him up from the minors, they probably wouldn’t have had to face the White Sox in the one game playoff. (Of course, if the White Sox don’t lose Carlos Quentin…) It will be interesting to see how they try to protect Liriano’s arm in 2009, as his health is such a question mark.
In the AL Central, where all 5 teams have a chance at winning the division, one superstar player can make a bigger difference than in most divisions. I don’t see Cliff Lee duplicating his career year 2008 season, so if asked who I thought the best pitcher was in the division, I would go with Liriano. With his delivery motion and past history, it is a real question mark, though, if he will even make 20 starts in 2009. While the Twins have 2 superstar hitters, a great defense, a great closer, and a promising young starting pitching staff, I think the team’s chances rely a lot on if Liriano makes his turn in the rotation. While Scott Baker is a really good pitcher and is set to be their No.1, Liriano is the ace who can win against anyone he faces.
Maybe I missed someone who is even a better example of being the player with the Most Upside/Downside. I would be interested to see who you think fits the definition more than Liriano.
One of my favorite songs of last year was the sexy duet by Jonatha Brooke and Keb Mo, All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me. I highly recommend you seek that out, but since I couldn’t find a youtube version, here is Brooke doing it live. How great is Woody Guthrie that he could produce a song like this and still write such great political folk songs, as well?