Heimlich Manuever applied
to Liriano, who's just
swallowed his disbelief.
On Tuesday night, May 3, 2011, Francisco Liriano did not allow any hits to the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, in his 1-0 victory. That makes it just the fifth no-hitter (Baseball Ref. game stats ) for the Minnesota Twins in their fifty-plus years of existence (see others in chart below). It made me curious to see where it rated in terms of the best pitching starts in Minnesota Twins history. My search for answers began with finding the finest statistical seasons of the best Twins to ever toe the rubber, i.e, "Camilo Pascual's career year of 1963." From there, it was narrowed to "Which games from the Curveballer's big year stood out?" That led to choosing a measurement to rank the best starts: Game Scores.
I hope the following has some interest for you. I personally like the historical aspect.
Feel free to add your comments!
This Wikipedia link contains a really nice capsule summary of every Minnesota Twin & Washington Senator no-hitter, including the very first spun by Walter Johnson.
For objectively ranking the efficiency and effectiveness of a pitcher's starting performance, baseball's venerable statistics poindexter Bill James created the "game score" point method. I like it a lot for its objectivity. The playing of the game may be tweaked over time ( see "steroid use, impact upon offensive output," "evolution of taller pitchers," favorable ballpark factors," etc.), but it uniformly rates the performances with the same statistical info for Twins pitchers across six decades. It takes into account game data such as strikeouts, runs, innings pitched, hits allowed, runs allowed, etc. (see "Sabermetrics" link in sidebar for greater detail of method). The method gives us an idea where Francisco Liriano's start ranks in comparison to some of the all-time greatest pitching performances in Twins history.
The Top 25 (Links after date brings you to Baseball Reference description of game)
- Camilo Pascual: Sept.18, 1963 10-0 Shut Out vs Detroit Tigers 90
- Jim Merritt: July 26, 1967 13 inning, 3-2 No Decison vs NYY 91
- Bert Blyleven: Sept.26, 1973 4-1, CG Win (20th) vs Oakland A's 90
- Dave Goltz: August 23, 1977 7-0 Shut Out vs Boston Red Sox 92
- Brad Radke: Sept. 21, 1997 CG10inn., 9 K 1-0 Win Vs Brewers 85
- Johan Santana: Aug. 19, 2007 17K, 8 inn., 1-0 Win Vs T.Rangers 95
- Francisco Liriano: May 3, 2011 No Hitter Vs Chicago White Sox 83
- Steve Luebber: Aug. 7, 1976 2-Hit, 3-1 Win Vs Tex. Rangers 78
- Jerry Koosman July 30, 1980 10 inning, 3 hit, 2-1 Win Vs NYY 81
Koosman's omission is harder yet for me to justify. The List, after all, can only have 25 picks ( a number written in blood by the Baseball Gods ). I may yet waffle and insert him in place of one of the other choices in the list. His "aLI," or average leverage index (amount of pressure he faced, owing to the strength of the Yankee batting order and game situation) approaches that faced by Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. In the end, quibbling over details like this was like shaving layers off an onion.
We can't get bogged down in statistical ennui and nebulousness. So, I went instead with the other Koosman game listed. Had to...Jerry's one of our own, don't ya know.
Jerry has always been very proud
that fans fall all over themselves
to buy his rookie card. Nobody has the
heart to tell him...
There are several reasons why this event can be rated the most bizarre reversal of fortune in history for a Minnesota Twins pitcher. Here's a couple:
- Liriano's sublimely awful performance in 2011 to date: his ERA went down to 6.61, from 9.13 after his previous start against the Tampa Bay Rays. I had attended that game (see post on that game experience). The Rays had a near cycle in the first inning, less a homerun; he game up two doubles, two singles, a triple, and a walk - 4 runs out of the chute. Granted, Frankie was pitching under some very cool, even snowy conditions. But Tampa's starter and winner, Wade Davis, faced the same adversities, allowing only two hits in 6+ innings. As an eyewitness, I had the impression the 27-year old wanted out of the game from the start. Liriano's game line: 3 IP, 83 Pitches, 7 ER, 4 BB. 4 K Game Score: 19
- Twins team performance in April. 2011: in the first, putrid month of play, the Twins as a team were 9 W - 17 L. They scored 82 runs, and gave up 139 (differential of 57 runs, an MLB worst). Throw in too that they were the last team this year to score 5 or more runs in a game, and reach double figures in wins. Worse then the Padres? Oh yes. Worse than the most impotent, offensive team of 2010. The pitching staff (see stats link) had a 5.06 ERA, gave up 31 HR, averaged 3.5 BB/Game...these are just the low lights, without mentioning fielding errors, baserunning follies, missed or poorly relayed signs.