First Pitch: Pirates Showing a Lot of Confidence in Liriano

Francisco Liriano Pitching

Francisco Liriano has been the second best home pitcher in baseball this year. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pittsburgh Pirates had a chance to load up on plenty of relievers for the one game Wild Card matchup. Instead, they went the opposite route. Based on comments by Clint Hurdle today, the team will carry 16 position players and nine pitchers. The pitchers include Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and the seven regular relievers from the 2013 season.

With the exception of Cole, the Pirates are managing this game just like any other game, from a pitching standpoint. Even with Cole, it’s the same, since a starter from a different day could come in and pitch in extra innings during the regular season.┬áThis is putting a lot of confidence in Liriano. There’s not much of a backup plan if he struggles. Gerrit Cole could step in, but that leaves the Pirates in trouble if the game goes deep into extra innings. These two teams play a lot of close games, so a guy who could pitch in extras is important.

The Pirates are showing a lot of confidence in Liriano, but they should. He’s their ace. He is also dominant at home. There were 107 pitchers with 70+ innings pitched at their home ballpark this year. Liriano had a 1.47 ERA at home, which ranked second overall on that list. He was one behind Jose Fernandez, and one ahead of Clayton Kershaw. Falling right behind Kershaw were Stephen Strasburg, Shelby Miller, and Matt Harvey.

That’s great company for Liriano to be in. All of those guys are aces, or future aces. Liriano has definitely pitched like an ace this year, at least at home. So the Pirates should show all of the confidence in the world in him. They’re doing that by carrying a normal pitching staff tomorrow, minus a few starting pitching options. And in the process they’re loading up on position players.

I like the fact that the Pirates are loading up on hitters. It will allow Clint Hurdle to be aggressive with some moves. If the Reds bring in a lefty, the Pirates can bring in one of their bench players who can hit lefties. If the Reds give up a leadoff hit in a close game, the Pirates can turn to a speed option off the bench to pinch run. If the Pirates are up close and late, they can bring on some defensive subs, and still have a pinch hitter remaining.

If played right, the extra hitters could provide opportunities to get Francisco Liriano some runs. As we’ve seen this year, when Liriano is on his game, he doesn’t need much help from the offense. And he’s usually on his game when he’s pitching at PNC Park.

Links and Notes

Playoff Coverage

**Getting Ready For a #PNCBlackout Tonight

**Clint Hurdle On the Cincinnati Reds and the Wild Card Game

**The Wild Card Playoff Roster Will Have a Lot of Position Players

**How the Playoffs Line Up For the Pittsburgh Pirates

Other Links

**Pirates Named as a Team That Could Sign Jose Abreu

**Pirates Have the 27th Pick in the 2014 Draft

**Gerrit Cole Named the NL Rookie of the Month For September.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • mgeorg

    If they need more than seven relievers, they’re probably not winning anyway. Even if they have to go to Cole early it might be too late. Hopefully Cole gets to sit and watch all night.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      yep

  • http://allmyforeparents.blogspot.com Israel P.

    Mazzaro has done multiple innings successfully, as has – if you trust him – Jeanmar. In any case, extra innings means pinch hitting every second or third time around, so no pitcher would need to go more than 2-3 anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

    Starting a left-hander and having both Justin Wilson and Tony Watson available out of the bullpen gives the Pirates a significant advantage.

    Against right-handed pitchers, Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce have a combined batting line of .305/.426/.520 — .946 OPS. Against LHP, that drops to .238/.341/.389 — .730 OPS.

    If the Pirates have to use a RHP against Choo, Votto, or Bruce, it should be Mark Melancon, who has limited left-handed hitters to a .148 batting average and .357 OPS.

    • gomudhens

      I expect Liriano to be quite sharp tonight. It’s the Pirate offense against Cueto that concerns me…

      • gomudhens

        …but perhaps my concern was entirely unwarranted!

  • CalipariFan506

    Why in the heck is Tim Timmons allowed to be umpiring this game at any capacity? He has been more than ridiculous with some old feud with Hurdle over the past two seasons. I think it’s completely ridiculous to allow Timmons on the field tonight. Totally.

    • Kevin_Young

      Well it’s better than (His name will not be mentioned here)….

  • gomudhens

    I guess this article is a joke? You have one starter in Cole who could easily pitch six or seven innings and seven other relievers who each could go an inning without any problem. How often do you use more than nine pitchers in a game, no matter how crucial the game is?

  • CalipariFan506

    I don’t think it is better than that umpire from Atlanta. That guy made a bad call. Timmons has gone totally overboard three times to eject Hurdle the past two seasons.

  • leadoff

    Yes, the plate umpire is critical, something that we rarely pay much attention to before a game starts, but Timmons definitely turns the game in the Reds favor. They do have some other bad umpires around, but he is one the worst.

    • gomudhens

      Joe West is going to be behind the plate tonight, according to the reports I’m seeing.

  • CalipariFan506

    West is behind the plate. But Timmons is still there. Timmons will attempt to toss Liriano if e hits any batter. He did it to Johnathan Sanchez with no warning.

  • smurph

    Joe West also has an erratic strike zone. Hopefully it will even out or favor the Pirates.

  • JayBird

    Actually, if the game goes deep and they need long relief behind Gerrit, Jeanmar is there. He’s had more good games than bad in long relief.

    I’m most concerned about finding a way to hit Cueto. He’s had injury trouble… but he’s been strong when he’s pitched and has had success against the Bucs. 8-2 with a 1.80 at PNC. Byrd is 7-12 against him career… so we need to jump on him!

    I love this after 21 years of darkness… but, man, I’m actually nervous. lol