The Francisco Liriano ownership experience is, without a doubt, the most terrifying carnival ride currently available to fantasy owners, in any sport. He's given us some of the more unusual box scores we've seen over the past decade — you'll recall his six-walk, two-K no-hitter — and some of the absolute worst. When Liriano takes the mound, the range of potential outcomes is ludicrously wide. It's Randy Johnson-good at the high end, Daniel Cabrera-bad at the bottom.
In a home start against Oakland on Friday night, Liriano again did Liriano things...in a good way, most of the time. The lefty struck out a career-high 15 batters over eight innings, issuing just one walk and four hits. His fastball was plenty lively (93-95 mph), and the slider was simply unfair. Check the highlights. Liriano induced 29 swings-and-misses from A's hitters, the most by any major league pitcher in a single game since 2007.
That's just evil.
Liriano couldn't completely avoid trouble against Oakland, however. (This should surprise no one). The A's loaded the bases in the fourth on an infield hit by Jemile Weeks, a brutal error by Denard Span (dropped a routine fly), then a walk to Chris Carter. And then Jonny Gomes cleared the bases with his ninth homer of the season. To Liriano's credit, he recovered quickly and fully, allowing just one base-runner over his final four frames.
Friday's start was something of a showcase for Liriano, an obvious trade chip for the Twins. Presumably he impressed whichever scouts were in attendance. (Toronto? Atlanta? New York? Baltimore? These are the rumors). Over his last nine starts, dating back to May 30, Liriano's numbers are crazy-good — 57.1 IP, 67 Ks, 2.83 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .170 BAA — so there's no doubt a market for his services. His ownership rate in Yahoo! leagues is back up to 41 percent, too, so mixed leaguers are on board.
I'd added Liriano in the Friends & Family league as a spot-starter in advance of Friday's appearance, largely because Oakland ranks dead-last in the A.L. in run-scoring. I now feel compelled to keep him on the roster through next week's match-up with the O's. But beyond that, no promises. We might get another gem from Liriano, or we might get a two-inning, seven-walk loss. No idea. That's half the fun in Liriano ownership. The other half is ... um ... well, there is no other half. I'd toss him on the trade block if I thought anyone was eager to invest. That's where Minnesota should probably keep him, too.
But if you're one of the Liriano zealots, this is your day. Please spread some sunshine in comments...