Found August 04, 2013 on
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.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Francisco Liriano dug up another gem for his 12th win of the season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
When the Pirates need to stop a losing streak, they send out their stopper.
Francisco Liriano has become the stopper. He and the Pirates are now 12-4 in his starts after beating the Colorado Rockies 5-2 on Saturday night, and by doing so stopped a two-game losing streak from turning into...
The Pittsburgh Pirates had a statement to make to the St. Louis Cardinals and the rest of Major League Baseball this week, they belong on top.
Pittsburgh was faced with their biggest challenge thus far, as they played eight games in seven days. During that stretch the Pirates went 6-2 and dominated the Cardinals. They came into the series trailing by 1 1/2 games in the NL Central...
Last night I wrote about how Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett are the 1-A and 1-B when it comes to Pirates aces. I also said that I feel Liriano has passed Burnett as the Pirates ace. Typically, Burnett would follow that up with a complete game gem, allowing one run and striking out nine. After the game, Clint Hurdle was asked about the possibility that the Pirates have two aces...
AJ Burnett pitched one heck of a game against the Cardinals in the first end of the double-header, but the game went 11 innings and he (once again) failed to pick up a win. Pitcher wins are, of course, meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it'd still be nice for AJ Burnett to tally a couple here and there. His strong start against the Cards was particularly nice to see...
Russell Martin helped A.J. Burnett to his first complete game of the season and provided a three-run homer. (Photo by: David Hague)
At long last, A.J. Burnett completed what he started. Nine innings, 110 pitches, wrapping up the Pirates’ 5-1 series-winning victory over the Colorado Rockies all by himself.
Well, not all by himself. Moments after PNC Park erupted for Burnett finishing...
Francisco Liriano continued his recent dominance with seven strong innings, and Jose Tabata homered and drove in two runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
Liriano (12-4) allowed only two hits to offset his five walks and had six strikeouts. The left-hander improved to 7-1 with a 1.65 ERA in his last eight starts for the NL...
As A.J. Burnett walked off the field in the seventh inning the cheers began to pick up.
After a 1-2-3 eighth they got louder and louder still when he took the mound for the ninth.
The sellout crowd of 37980 Sunday afternoon at PNC Park realized what was happening. A.J. Burnett was in the midst of an A.J. Burnett start.
"It's been a great season all around packing this...
A.J. Burnett was picked up off the scrap heap after a failed experiment in New York, and all he's done is have his the best season of his career, including two big performances in the past seven days.
A.J. Burnett scattered eight hits and Russell Martin provided some rare run support for the right-hander with a three-run homer that led the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Colorado Rockies 5-1 Sunday.
Burnett (5-7) struck out nine and walked one in his first complete game of the season and 23rd of his 15-year career. He threw 110 pitches, including 83 strikes.
Martin's home run...
Source: FanGraphs One thing that hasn’t happened too often this season for the Pittsburgh Pirates is extended losing streaks. Having a guaranteed stopper in the rotation has been one of many reasons why. Francisco Liriano has undoubtedly been the ace of this staff after spending the beginning of the season on the disabled list. Tonight,…
With all of the time that we've spent talking about Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole this year, there's something that's gotten lost in the mix: some days, AJ Burnett takes the mound with his best stuff, and when that happens the other team doesn't stand a chance. Burnett was brilliant this afternoon, tossing nine easy innings against the Rockies,...
The Pirates took the series from the Rockies with a second straight strong all-around performance on Sunday, and they were once again led by a great starting pitching effort. This time it was A.J. Burnett, who delivered the Bucs’ second complete game of the season.
Burnett has been very strong all year – especially lately – but hasn’t gotten a lot of help from the rest of...
Source: FanGraphs This team is so special and it is guys like A.J. Burnett that make it that way. Batman tossed his first complete game of the season much to the delight of the masses at PNC Park. One of the more understated things about the Pirates over this weekend is how different their approach…