While lust over the crazy-good 30/5 K/BB ratio in his 20 Grapefruit League innings isn't without its consideration, another positive indication that Francisco Liriano may be closer to his 2006 self versus the 2009 version is in the way balls are going off opponents' bats this spring: On the ground.
Lacking a full breakdown of his batted ball numbers while in Ft Myers, we can still see through his Ground Out/Air Out numbers that Liriano's groundball production is mirrors his '06 numbers:
|Spring Training 2010||2.33|
Yes, the sample size of 84 hitters is far too small to put any real weight into it, but this is reassuring nonetheless. Last season, Liriano allowed 21 home runs courtesy of a career-high 41.2% fly ball rate. This was quite the contrast from his '06 season in which just 28.3% of balls in play were elevated and he surrendered 9 home runs:
In 2009, throwing more fastballs because he often found himself behind in hitters more frequently, Liriano left far too many pitches middle-up in the zone and opponents (particularly right-handed ones) redirected them into the bleachers. The assumption, gauging both from his increased strikeout rate and groundout rate over the winter and spring, is that Liriano is once again peppering the lower part of the zone which is inciting more bouncers and dribblers instead of long flies. If Liriano can continue this output during the regular season - adding the groundouts to reinforce his strikeouts - the lefty stands a good chance of contributing at the high level once again.