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Entries in Francisco Liriano (10)


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.

Miller, Liriano Dominate Different Parts of the Zone

The most consequential series for the Pirates since Sid Bream beat Barry Bonds' throw to home plate in Game Seven of the 1992 NLCS opens tonight, as the Cardinals (78-55) take a one-game lead in the NL Central standings to PNC Park to take on Pittsburgh (77-56). A pair of power arms kick off the series on Friday with Rookie of the Year candidate Shelby Miller (9.7 K/9, 126 ERA+) facing Francisco Liriano (9.3 K/9, 130 ERA+), a scrapheap free agent find who could become the first pitcher in big league history to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award twice.

While Miller and Liriano are both dealing, they're doing so in far different ways. Miller is firing letter-high pitches. Liriano, by contrast, is pounding the bottom of the strike zone. The common thread? Lots of whiffs, weak contact and long walks back to the dugout for opposing batters.

Shelby Miller

Miller has located 36.2% of his pitches in the upper third of the strike zone this season -- only Baltimore's Chris Tillman (39.2%) and New York's Matt Harvey (36.3%) have climbed the ladder more frequently among qualified starting pitchers. When it comes to getting swings and misses on high pitches, Miller is the best in the game:

Highest miss pct. on upper-third pitches among starters, 2013

The 22-year-old right-hander especially likes to challenge hitters with high heat, throwing 41.4% of his fastballs up in the zone. Miller has racked up an NL-leading 60 strikeouts on high fastballs.

Batters aren't doing much against Miller's high stuff when they manage to make contact, slugging .189 and collecting a whopping four extra-base hits. Miller's opponent slugging percentage against high pitches is more than 200 points lower than the MLB average (.393), and trails only Cincinnati's Homer Bailey (.179) among starters.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano, unlike Miller, lives low in the zone. The 29-year-old lefty has tossed 57.3% of his pitches to the lower third of the zone, third-highest among starters. He also ranks in the top 10 among starters in lower-zone whiffs:

Highest miss percentage on lower-third pitches among starters, 2013

Liriano's go-to offering low in the strike zone is his changeup, which he has buried two-thirds of the time this year.

Batters are slugging a mere .247 versus Liriano's low pitches, which is nearly 80 points below the MLB average (.325) and ranks in the top 15 among starters. Liriano has surrendered just one home run on a low pitch this year -- a slider that Cincinnati's Chris Heisey deposited into the seats on July 19.


Liriano Thriving Low in the Zone

You could forgive Pirates fans if, upon hearing their club signed Francisco Liriano over the winter, they had bad flashbacks to Oliver Perez. The comparison wasn't hard to make: A tantalizing lefty with low 90s gas, a wipeout slider...and the aim of a blind-folded dart-thrower. Liriano issued five free passes per nine innings during the 2011-12 seasons, racking up a five-plus ERA and even getting banished to the bullpen for a time last May. Add in a broken non-throwing arm that wiped out the first month of his season, and expectations were low that Liriano would show the form that earned him All-Star status in 2006 and AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2010.

But Liriano is doing just that. He has punched out 39 batters and walked just nine through 29 innings pitched, and he has yet to surrender a single home run. The 29-year-old is keeping the ball in the park by pounding hitters at the knees: He has thrown 62% of his pitches to the lower-third of the strike zone, the highest clip among starting pitchers throwing at least 400 pitches this season and well above his 52% mark from 2012. Here's more on Liriano's prowess low in the zone:

  • Liriano is inducing whiffs 50% of the time that hitters swing at his low stuff, narrowly beating out baseball's strikeout king, Yu Darvish, for the best mark among starting pitchers.

Liriano's contact rate by pitch location, 2013

  • Liriano is also getting plenty of swings on low pitches thrown off the plate, as his 36% chase rate attests. The only starters with a higher chase rate on low stuff are Shaun Marcum, Johnny Cueto, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ervin Santana and Felix Hernandez.
  • With all of those whiffs and chases, Liriano is limiting batters to a .191 slugging percentage on low pitches. That's 12th-lowest among starters and over 120 points below the big league average (.314), though A.J. Burnett (.153 opponent slugging percentage on low pitches) still has bragging rights in the Pirates clubhouse.