Frankie and Joey were sweethearts
Photo via Wiki page
Francisco Liriano started the fortieth game of his career last night, earning his first victory of this young season and his 20th lifetime win. Damn - 20 lifetime wins? Given all the pub and conjecture regarding Frankie Franchise over the last five years, it almost feels as if he has (or should have) 120.
But that's just more sewing circle dialogue that seems to magnetize toward Liriano. Let's trend over toward some fact: Francisco Liriano is a far better pitcher with Joe Mauer behind the dish. The numbers don't lie.
Of those aforementioned 40 career starts, 17 of them have come with someone other than Mauer starting at catcher. Liraino's numbers in those games? He's 7-7 with a respectable 3.76 ERA; 47 percent of those games have resulted in Quality Starts.
But with Mauer starting at catcher, the numbers display a rapid rise. Liriano has started 23 career games with Mauer behind the plate. His numbers with Joe starting? A solid 12-6 after last night's win, coupled with a stellar 2.86 ERA; a fine 57 percent of those games have resulted in Quality Starts.
At 1-4, Liriano is tied for the major league lead in losses (sadly, with Scott Baker). Hell, Royals ace Zach Greinke earned his sixth win last night and a dozen MLB pitchers have at least four wins (thankfully, with Kevin Slowey among them). That's not to suggest that Liriano is so far back from the elite that another season will appear for naught; rather, it's to imply that expectations for him remain really damn high.
This isn't the Liriano from '06 with the kick-ass slider. This is a man three years later in life trying to master a kick-ass changeup, and throw strikes. Mauer's Gold Glove acumen will help with that - he'll also greatly improve keeping would-be base stealers in check at first, limiting runners in scoring position.
Francisco Liriano will be 26 come fall. He's a guy with 20 career wins on his resume and 20 million stories written about his left arm. Sometimes, it's hard not to live in the past; Mauer will help Frankie look more toward the future.