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« Price Pounds Zone, Uses His D in Complete-Game Win | Main | Will Cueto Keep Challenging McCutchen? »

The Bucs Need July Liriano, Not September Lirano

At first glance, picking Francisco Liriano over the Reds tonight is a no-brainer.

Take a second glance.

Will the Pirates see the early season Liriano or the late season Liriano?

It is indeed a fair question to ask: How much does Francisco Liriano have left in the tank?

This is a legitimate question for the Pirates even if they do get by tonight's Wild Card play-in, because clearly the Liriano of August and September is nowhere near the quality Liriano from earlier in the season.
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/1/2013.

Comparing the July Liriano and the September Liriano

For much of the data, Liriano's numbers look similar, but the results are dramatically different.
Liriano July/September 2013
July Liriano535.05113.8189.096.644.8%32.2%29.8%.16128.490.9432.06
Sept Liriano528.04693.9189.896.144.1%28.7%32.1%.25049.001.3935.14

The differences in overall velocity and pitches in the zone is negligible.

One significant difference can be seen in a drop of 3.5% in batters swinging and missing and while that seems to be compensated by an increase in the chase rate, obviously batters are more confident in going after Liriano's pitches because of a better rate of success.

Liriano's signature slider

I don't know whether there is some arm soreness or simply fatigue, but in September we saw a significant drop in Liriano's use of his slider from July.

The speed of the pitch was the same, but its efficacy was not the same. Clearly still effective, batters were able to key in on the pitch and make significantly better contact.
Liriano's Slider July/September 2013
July Slider52144.2386.990.949.1%43.9%40.4%.0981.1673
Sept Slider51744.3887.690.844.3%42.0%36.1%.1490.2809

When Liriano Does NOT Throw the Slider

No pitcher not named Mariano Rivera can rely on one pitch and that is certainly true with Francisco Lirano.

When Liriano is not using his slider, he has become a very hittable pitcher.

Liriano uses both a fastball and change-up to compliment his slider. While his numbers have not been significantly different for his slider, when we compare July and Septembers fastball and change, and then take those two pitches together, we see a very vulnerable pitcher.
Liriano's Other Pitches July/September 2013
July Fastball51803.3093.196.645.6%12.5%12.2%.1841.1717
Sept Fastball51903.5593.396.144.7%13.6%20.0%.2734.2006
July Change51173.6986.789.035.9%32.2%37.3%.2410.2923
Sept Change51053.6187.089.242.9%27.4%46.7%.3930.4234
July F & C52973.4690.596.641.8%22.0%23.1%.2091.22010
Sept F & C52953.5791.196.144.1%20.3%29.7%.3284.31410

Look how Liriano's fastball and change have drifted up in the zone:

Liriano is not the same pitcher he was in July

It's one thing to not have the same stuff in October that you have earlier in the season, but Liriano's numbers in September are more indicative of the Liriano of 2011-12 who had a 5.23 ERA for the Twins and White Sox.

If the Pirates are to move beyond tonight and then deeper into the postseason, Liriano is going to have be the pitcher he was during the May-June-July not the August-September struggling pitcher.

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