I have wondered what it is that has worked for Liriano this season. This season is the third time his performance has bordered on great. After being acquired by the Minnesota Twins from the San Francisco Giants in the AJ Pierzynski in late 2003, he made his debut in 2004 and emerged in 2005. He went 12-3, 2.16 in 28 games, 16 starts with 144 Ks in 121 IP. He finished 3rd in the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Tommy John surgery kept him from pitching in 2007, as well as the 2006 postseason and he was 6-4, 3.91 in 14 starts in 2008. His 2009 season, however, was disappointing as he was 5-13, 5.80 in 29 games, 24 starts.
His 2010 season was great, as he went 14-10, 3.62 in 31 starts for the Twins. He had a career high with 201 Ks in 191 2/3 IP, gave up just 9 HR (after 25 a year earlier) and finished with a 1.263 WHIP. This seemed to be the resurgence the Twins were waiting for after the TJ surgery. However, Liriano went just 9-10, 5.09 for the Twins in 2011, but threw his first career no hitter on 5/3. Last season, Liriano went a combined 6-12, 5.34 in 34 games, 28 starts for the Twins and White Sox.
What has caused Liriano to pitch at this level? The common denominator between this season, 2010 and 2006 is bases on balls. In 2006, his BB/9 IP was 2.4 and was 2.7 in 2010. It is 3.5 this season, as all have been far cries for his 5.0 BB/9 IP in 2011 and 2012 and 4.3 in 2009. He has showed the consistency this year, but how far can it go? I said the same thing in 2010, but he followed it up with his two worst seasons. He has a clear chance to win 20 games for the first time in his MLB career. And he should be in the discussion for the NL Cy Young Award race. (He obviously is not in the same category as Clayton Kershaw of Los Angeles.) Hopefully, he can sustain his success for another couple seasons unlike the prior two seasons he became a big pitcher.