Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 8/4/13
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

Gerald McCoy keeps the Jameis Winston hype in check

Gronkowski family to appear on 'Family Feud'

WATCH: Lloyd McClendon has all-time meltdown

Drew Bledsoe defends Tom Brady over Deflategate

Did Heat offer Dwyane Wade less than $10 million per season?

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

David Ortiz brushes aside talk of being 'washed up'

USA Women’s World Cup roster verdict: No excuse not to win

UCF had no idea UConn was creating a rivalry trophy

Cam Newton signs five-year, $103M extension with Panthers

Devils introduce new head coach John Hynes

Report: Heat could make a run at Kevin Durant

Russell Wilson on future with Seahawks: 'We'll see what happens'

QB Blake Sims misses playing for Alabama

WATCH: Joc Pederson hits longest home run of the season

WATCH: Joey Gallo homers in first career game

Former Mississippi State cheerleader suing ESPN after hit by golf cart

Jackson says Bills plan to give McCoy 300-plus carries

McCoy not happy Perryman played dodgeball while injured

College football playoff schedule for 2015: New Year's Eve?

How the Chicago Blackhawks are thriving in salary cap era

Report: Klay Thompson cleared for Game 1 of NBA Finals

Pettine views latest Manziel incident as a ‘non-story’

Nationals need Taylor to produce in Werth’s absence

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

USA Women’s World Cup: No excuse not to win

Projecting rosters for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

What Peterson's return means

The Bulls and the culture of fitting in

X-factors for Cavs and Warriors

Pujols: Angels not 'Mike Trout show'

Adrian Peterson returns to Vikings

Chicago Bulls agree to deal with Fred Hoiberg

NBA should have 'legacy contracts' for long-time players

Atlanta Hawks unveil new logo

UAB fans celebrate football reinstatement

Sanchez backs off dismissal of Tebow

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.