Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Look at what’s Ahead – Francisco Liriano

Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Francisco Liriano recently threw the first no-hitter of the 2011 Major League Baseball season against the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. He threw just over half of his pitches for strikes (123 total pitches – 66 strikes), walked six and struck out two. 

Before last night’s game, he had given up more runs that innings pitched (24 earned runs in 23.2 innings), had given up seven earned runs in three innings in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays and allowed a combined 16 earned runs in his previous three starts, in which he averaged less than five innings per outing. He had never had a complete game in his career. 

There were rumblings of Liriano being removed from the rotation and sent to the bullpen as a middle reliever (which means the only action you see is if your starting pitcher has a terrible start or a game goes into extra innings). Or worse, another scenario had the southpaw being sent to the Twins’ AAA affiliate in Rochester (NY) of the International League. 

I would imagine that pitching at the Major League level comes with enormous pressure that most of us can’t imagine. Newspapers, radio talk shows and news broadcasts are all talking about your future and how disappointing your season has been. 

I’m not suggesting that Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter saves his season. There are obviously some problems that have led to his poor start. His outing does give him a few more weeks in the rotation and quiets the rumbling, for a little while at least. 

But there is a bigger lesson that can be learned from Francisco Liriano – Look forward, not behind.

I’m not discounting the fact that there is valuable information that can be taken from previous outings or situations. In Liriano’s case, maybe he and his coaches were able to address a mechanical flaw or an arm issue because of what they saw in video. And once a problem is discovered, hard work goes into fixing the issue. 

But again, it is easy, when things are going bad, to assume that your misfortunes will snowball. But each opportunity you get on the baseball field is another chance. 

If you haven’t gotten a hit in three at-bats in a game and have the game winning single in your final at-bat, fans are going to remember your hit. If you have made two errors in a game, but make a great play late in the game to preserve a win, your two misplays are forgotten. And in Liriano’s case, if you have a rough start to the season, one start can turn around your fortunes. 

Learn from previous failures. Work hard to correct them. But once you get on the baseball field, you can’t think about those mistakes. Focus on what’s in front of you and good things will happen.

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