Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 11/15/14
Mlb-rays-twins-jul
Liriano is the guy you want to give the ball to in a big game. (Photo Credit: David Hague) Tonight Francisco Liriano was the stopper for the Pirates, preventing them from slipping to a three game losing streak, and allowing the team to pick up a win on the same night that the second place St. Louis Cardinals lost. Liriano has been extremely reliable all season, and has been one of the best free agent signings this year. There are debates starting asking whether he should draw Cy Young consideration, although that award is most certainly going to Clayton Kershaw. There is one significant role that Liriano could have going forward: playoff ace. The Pirates are almost certainly making the post-season this year. The question isn’t whether they will make it, but who they will be playing. They had a 99.3% chance of making the post-season earlier this week, but winning the division was more of a 50/50 toss-up. If the Pirates win the division, then Liriano would be a great candidate to start the first game of the best of five Wild Card series. That could also allow him to come back and start game four of the series. But if the Pirates don’t win the division, they would be subjected to a one game Wild Card play-in. That would be a huge game, and one where you’d absolutely want your best starter on the mound. Liriano is emerging as that guy this year. Looking at the current rotation, you can pretty much rule out Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton for any big games. Locke has great numbers this year, but it’s also his first full season in the majors, and you probably don’t want his inexperience in a big game. You could say the same about Cole, plus while he profiles as a future ace, he’s not there yet. Morton deserves to be in the rotation, but he’s an average starter and the Pirates have better options for a big game. That leaves Liriano or A.J. Burnett. Both have great numbers this year, with Liriano posting a 2.02 ERA and Burnett putting up a 2.86 ERA. The advanced metrics back those up. Burnett has a 3.06 FIP, while Liriano has a 2.72 FIP. They’re both striking out a batter an inning, and both have mild control issues, with a 3.5 BB/9 ratio. They also induce a lot of ground balls, playing into the strong Pirates infield defense. You can’t go wrong with either pitcher in a one game wild card matchup. In a best of five series, you could get four of the potential five starts from those two. In a best of seven series you could get five of the potential seven starts. Right now Liriano ranks 6th in the NL in FIP out of pitchers with 90+ innings, while Burnett ranks 15th on the list. The one area where Liriano stands out above Burnett is his ability to dominate consistent in a start. David Manel of Bucs Dugout had this on Liriano’s game scores this year. Francisco Liriano's game score, 74. His 8th "gem" in 16 starts. (Bill James' calls game scores over 65, gems.) — David Manel (@DavidManel) August 4, 2013 It is also Liriano's 3rd gem in a row; 5th in his last 6 starts. — David Manel (@DavidManel) August 4, 2013 Liriano has been great all year, with half of his starts going as “gems”. By comparison, Burnett has gems in 7 of 19 starts. The difference is that Liriano has been on fire lately. Burnett has been a good pitcher as well, but it’s hard to dominate like Liriano has been dominating recently. As long as that continues, Liriano should be the guy the Pirates give the ball to in big games. Of course debating between Liriano and Burnett is a good problem to have, especially when you consider that a better way to describe their roles this year would be “Ace #1″ and “Ace #2″. But if we’re splitting hairs, I’d definitely put Liriano in that #1 spot right now. Links and Notes **Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 15: Recapping the Slow Deadline; The Pirates Are Legit Playoff Contenders. **Stopper Liriano Pitches Seven Scoreless in 5-2 Pirates Win. **Pirates Notebook Exclusive: Jeff Locke “Stands Behind” Lack of Trades. **Prospect Watch: Heredia Overcomes Control Issues, Dickerson Homers. **Minor League Schedule: Pimentel, Holmes and Kingham Set For Sunday. **DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Pick Up Two Wins With Strong Starting Pitching.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Head coaching candidates for the Denver Nuggets

Check out these leaked Clippers jersey redesigns

Aqib Talib’s aggravated assault investigation suspended by Dallas PD

Ohio State expects 80,000 at its spring game this Saturday

Bryant strikes out three times in debut; Cubs fans heckle him

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

NBA rookies who disappointed in 2014-15 season

Report: Urban Meyer reassured Belichick about Hernandez

Cuban: Harden is MVP, Rockets are not very good

J.R. Smith: 'I don’t think anyone can beat us'

SCOTUS asked to overturn baseball's antitrust exemption

Is Chip Kelly expecting too much from Josh Huff?

Ubaldo Jimenez hit Pablo Sandoval with pitch, was ejected

NBA to track and post referees’ calls beginning in playoffs

MLB payrolls continue to rise

NBA playoffs: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs

Home runs ruined our ability to appreciate production

Why we love the NFL draft

There are only two contenders ... in the West?

Woman stripped of marathon win, didn't actually run in race

Matt Barnes' son betrays him for Steph Curry

WATCH: Padres fan saved from falling by alert cameraman

Kemp hosts Seattle party over OKC missing playoffs

Jim Harbaugh showed up at Ultimate Frisbee practice

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Leaked Clippers jersey redesigns

Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase preview

Home runs ruined our ability to appreciate production

Why we love the NFL draft

The "worst" player on each NBA playoff team

Jim Harbaugh showed up at Ultimate Frisbee practice

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the burden of legacy

Kris Bryant and floor versus ceiling

Top 10 storylines of the NBA Playoffs

A-Rod being taken to court over unpaid legal fees

Could Wilson really be a two-sport star?

Five players who must step up in the NBA playoffs

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.