Strikeouts and grounders: Francisco Liriano is dealing again

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I’ve often suggested that the Francisco Liriano who was the best, most overpowering pitcher in all of baseball as a rookie in 2006 was lost for good when he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery.
I still believe that to be true, but a) the version we’ve seen so far this year is pretty damn close, and b) if there wasn’t an extraordinarily dominant 2006 version to compare him to the reaction to what Liriano is doing right now would be, more or less, “holy %@&!.”
What made Liriano so incredibly special in 2006 is that he both led the league in strikeout rate and ranked fifth in ground-ball percentage, which is essentially the perfect combination. After returning from surgery in 2008/2009 he lost about one-fifth of his strikeouts, saw his fastball and slider velocity decline 3-4 miles per hour, and actually turned into a fly-ball pitcher, with his ground-ball rate going from 55 percent to 40 percent.
In other words, not only did his raw stuff and on-field results change for the worse with a drop in velocity and 5.12 post-surgery ERA, he was actually a different type of pitcher. Thankfully, it looks like he’s back to missing bats and killing worms. After a mediocre season debut Liriano has won three straight starts and thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings while allowing just 14 hits and five walks, racking up 24 strikeouts and 32 ground-ball outs in those 23 frames.
His start-by-start lines:

DATE     OPP      IP     R     H     SO     BB     GB     PIT
4/15     BOS     7.0     0     4      8      2     10      96
4/21     CLE     8.0     0     6      6      2     13     102
4/26     DET     8.0     0     4     10      1      9     112




Now, even 24 strikeouts and 32 ground-ball outs in 23 innings can’t compare to what he did in 2006 and Liriano’s velocity also isn’t quite back to his pre-surgery levels, but that just shows how insanely great he was back then. For the past three starts he’s averaged 93-94 miles per hour on his fastball with a strikeout per inning and nearly twice as many grounders as fly balls, which is absolutely, without question the recipe for top-of-the-rotation dominance.
Time will obviously tell if he can keep it up, but right now the Twins have a 26-year-old ace.

Report: J.D. Martinez signing delayed by medical issue

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The Red Sox reportedly inked free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million contract last Monday, but there appears to be a slight hitch in the process. According to a report from Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston, the team is sorting through a medical issue that has delayed the signing. The specific nature of the issue has yet to be revealed, though Drellich adds that both the team and agent Scott Boras have involved additional medical experts in the process.

For what it’s worth, Martinez remained fairly healthy during his 2017 run with the Tigers and Diamondbacks. The 30-year-old outfielder spent six weeks on the disabled list after suffering a right foot sprain during camp, but managed to make a full recovery by mid-May and didn’t relapse once throughout the rest of the year. Of course, the medical issue holding up his new contract could be of an entirely different nature.

While spring training is already underway for the rest of the Red Sox, club manager Alex Cora doesn’t appear too concerned by Martinez’s absence — yet. “The thing I can do is my thing,” he told MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “My job here is to show up every day and get ’em ready.”