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: Diamondbacks to trade Michael Bourn to the Orioles

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 21:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts after striking out during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on August 21, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports that the Orioles and Diamondbacks have agreed in principle to a trade involving outfielder Michael Bourn. The trade is in the process of being finalized. It is not yet known what the Diamondbacks are receiving in return.

Bourn will be the second outfielder the Orioles have acquired on Wednesday, as the club also claimed Drew Stubbs off waivers from the Rangers.

With rosters expanding on Thursday, the Orioles are making a concerted effort to bolster the team’s outfield depth. Both Stubbs and Bourn are eligible for the Orioles’ postseason roster if the club makes it.

Bourn, 33, hit .261/.307/.362 with 21 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, 43 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 358 plate appearances.

Orioles claim Drew Stubbs off waivers from the Rangers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 7: Drew Stubbs #15 of the Texas Rangers walks off the field after an at-bat during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 7, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Rangers won the game 3-0. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have claimed outfielder Drew Stubbs off release waivers from the Rangers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The club designated for assignment pitcher Kyle Lobstein, whom they acquired from the Pirates earlier on Wednesday, to make roster space for Stubbs, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com reports.

The Rangers designated Stubbs for assignment last week. After clearing waivers, Stubbs refused an assignment to Triple-A Round Rock, so the Rangers released him on Monday.

Stubbs, 31, has taken only 67 plate appearances this season — 42 with the Braves, 25 with the Rangers — as he missed a lot of time between mid-May and mid-August with a sprained left toe.

With rosters expanding, the veteran Stubbs will simply add to the Orioles’ outfield depth.