May 27, 2010
By: Andrew Thell
Back in late May I picked out four former MLB stars who were looking to regain some of their lost luster and made a case for why they just might do so. The four players in question were former sluggers Adrian Beltre and Vladimir Guerrero and erstwhile aces Ben Sheets and Francisco Liriano. So far those gentlemen are doing pretty well on the whole. Let’s take a peek under the hood.
Ben Sheets is always an injury concern, but the move to the Oakland Coliseum, a spacious park with some of the most generous foul territory in baseball, and his natural talent gave reason for optimism. The results so far have not been good – a 5.04 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and .278 BAA aren’t paying the bills. However, a closer look at the game log reveals that Sheets gave up a combined 17 runs, 19 hits and 5 HRs in back-to-back starts on the road against AL East offensive powerhouses Tampa Bay and Toronto. Pitchers don’t get to take starts back, but if a fantasy owner would have benched him in those extremely unfavorable matchups he’d have gotten a 2.65 ERA out of Sheets to date.
Perhaps more appropriately given the initial reason for the optimism, Sheets has thus far put up a 2.50 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 2.14 BAA with 32 Ks in 36 IPs at home. Sheets has been a disappointment, but that’s a split worth exploiting if you have the roster space. He’s likely a free agent in your league, and while he’s been a bust overall to this point, Sheets is still worth spot starting in juicy matchups at home.
The other pitcher, Francisco Liriano, is coming off a strong 7-inning, 7-strikeout, 2-run performance against the Yankees and has a much more friendly overall line on the season. After a dominant winter ball and spring training, there was optimism Liriano had finally regained the pre-Tommy John surgery form of 2006. Nine starts into the season the Twins’ 26-year-old has a 3.17 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 59/19 K/BB ratio in 59.2 innings pitched. Not too shabby. As a Twins fan I can tell you that Liriano passes the eye test as well. He still gets flustered and loses his focus, but I haven’t seen Frankie hit 95-97 on the gun with his fastball or induce so many strikeouts looking with the slider and change since that 2006 campaign. It doesn’t look like luck, either. Liriano’s .339 BABIP is slightly above his career .314 mark and his 3.36 xFIP is only a hair above his current ERA. The force of nature we saw in 2006 may never return, but the 2.87 BB/9, 48.8 GB%, 75.8 LOB% and 8.90 K/9 make Liriano only a bit worse and still an upper-echelon starter. Health is a concern, but if you own Liriano it’s probably time to play the matchups and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Looking under the hood of Vlad Guerrero and Adrian Beltre, after the jump …