What to expect from the next “Johan?”

There was a time in 2006 when Francisco Liriano was a dominant force to be reckoned with. 

Liriano was mowing down hitters at an alarming rate and appeared to be the next of the great crop of pitchers in the game.

Or the next “Johan” to be exact. 

Both were lefties.  Both had great stuff.  One more established than the other of course.  But then again, there was a time when Johan was not “Johan The Great.”  But rather Johan Santana, a pitcher striving to be a successful Major Leaguer, trying to do what he loves (while earning a very “comfortable” income).

Liriano went 12-3 in 2006, not pitching in the rotation until later in the year.  The same route Johan took once he was on the Twins Major League roster.

The young lefty, Liriano, K’d 144 in only 121 innings, while allowing only 32 bases on balls.  A monstrous 4 1/2 K’s per free pass allowed. 

I remember it well, although actually saw little of it.  But had Liriano thrown more innings, he very well could have won the Cy Young.  Johan actually took home the award that year anyway, so at least a fellow teammate benefited from the absence of Liriano early on in the season. 

Tommy John surgery puts all of the buzz about Liriano on hold…

Then he returns in 2008…But most of the year, is designated for Liriano to learn how to pitch again. 

He tears up the minors at one point, then gets the possibly overdue call to the Majors.  67 walks, 32 walks, in 76 innings, ERA+ 104.  Far from 2006-esque, but acceptable seeing how he was absent from the game for a year+. 

So what to expect from what we would call a pitcher with sick stuff? 

Since I am only human, I will allow the projection systems to explain.

The three systems I have available to me project an ERA between 3.62 and 3.97. 

Bill James’ projection is the most generous of the three, both in reference to rate stats and innings pitched.

So Liriano should be above average at worst according to these projections.  But we all know that there is much more potential to be unlocked than this.  Liriano could win the Cy Young and none of us would be surprised.  Well, maybe a little.  After all, Liriano is going to pitch his first FULL season at the Major League level as a starter (if everything goes right). 

Liriano could very well be the reason Twins fans all but forget that Johan “The Great” ever came through Minnesota to begin with.

But then again, those are very lofty expectations, and unfair to a young and partially undeveloped pitcher.

…With great potential…