Francisco Liriano Has Become Durable and Dependable

Durable and dependable. Two adjectives that have not often been used to describe left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano throughout his career.

Liriano had Tommy John surgery at the end of 2006, and missed the entire 2007 season. Since his return from surgery, he has been able to pitch over 165 innings just once in seven seasons, and only made 30 starts one time – he made 31 starts in 2010.

Yes, most of Liriano’s trouble eating innings has stemmed from his inability to throw strikes. For example, in 2011 Liriano had a 5.09 ERA and walked 75 batters, and in 2012 it was more of the same when he posted a 5.34 ERA and walked 87 batters. He was moved to the bullpen at the end of both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

But even after the Pirates and Ray Searage/Jim Benedict fixed Liriano’s control problems in 2013, he still only was able to pitch 161 innings, due to breaking his right arm while playing with his children before the season. The injury caused him to miss April and half of May. Last season, Liriano strained his oblique and landed on the disabled list — missing much of June and July — and only pitched 162.1 innings. Although he was extremely effective in the 2013-2014 seasons, he still wasn’t a guy that teams could depend on to give them consistent innings.

This inconsistency could have played a role in Liriano receiving only a three-year contract worth $39 million dollars with the Pirates, which looks to be a bargain after each of his starts this year. As effective as he has been the past two seasons, teams would not justify giving up a first round pick as compensation for a pitcher that has been as volatile as Liriano has been in his career.

However, since Liriano returned from the oblique strain last July, he has not only been one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball, but has also become one of the more dependable pitchers in the game.

Since Liriano’s DL stint last July, he has been a workhorse. Over the last calendar year, Liriano has made 32 starts and thrown 198.1 innings, which is good for the tenth-best in the National League. In that time, he has put up a 2.72 ERA and has struck out over a batter an inning.

This season, Liriano has thrown 108.1 innings, and is on pace to break the 200 innings mark for the first time in his 10-year career. In his 17 starts this season, he has pitched at least six innings in all but three starts, and has gone seven innings or more eight times, which has already exceeded the number of times he accomplished that last season.

“It would be big for me – it’s one of my goals,” Liriano said when I asked him about the possibility of eclipsing the 200 innings mark. “I’m trying to find a way to stay healthy and trying to go deep into games every fifth day.”

The Pirates have felt all along that Liriano was dependable despite his unpredictable history, and he’s proving them right.

“Well, he was dependable enough that we were able to bring him back and give him what we felt was a fair contract for a man that loves to work and loves to pitch,” Hurdle said tonight after Liriano’s strong six inning performance. “He’s comfortable here and we like having him in our rotation. He’s good for us and we feel we’re good for him.”

Over the past calendar year, durable and dependable seem to perfectly describe Liriano.

  • Who else was surprised Liriano came back out after rain delay? I wonder if CH was asked about it after game since Pads pulled Ross.

    • Extremely surprised, especially with Worley only having thrown less than an inning in the last ten days. Seemed like a no-brainer.

      • Agreed…And, yet, I then was surprised they pulled him after 6. Haha.

        • I was too. His pitch count was ok at 85 or 86 I think. Stewart got plunked and maybe they wanted more than a bunt from Liriano. That being said I think they made a decision to pull him no matter what happened with Stewart and Rodriguez. By the clubhouse interactions it looked like his night was finished.

    • Very surprised. I thought anything after an hour or hour and a half and you were pretty much done. Not only that but he gave them a scoreless 3 1/3 after he came out I think. I love that the pitchers (recently anyway) are going 6, 7, 8 innings and they don’t have to tap into the less reliable bullpen guys – not that Bastardo, Caminero, etc. have been a disaster. The season is a stark contrast to the days of the Karstens and J Macs who fought like crazy to get out of the 6th.

  • Keep it going, Frankie!!!!

  • Good article Pete. Frankie was key signing for Pirates last off-season. Even more than AJ, due to length of contract.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 8, 2015 7:24 am

    Liriano has been very good this year, with just 1-2 hiccups along the way. With run support, he would have 8-10 wins. Even his control has been much better over the past month, where in the past he would walk too many batters and get himself in trouble. Our top 3 of the rotation may not be the best, but they have pitched like they are the best.

    • Only Cards can say they have 3 SP’s close to as good as Pirates this season and back it up with the numbers.

      • Dodgers as well. Kershaw coming on, Greinke is absurd, and Anderson has been solid. PIT with the best top 3, but a few teams are close-ish. I think LAD has a better front 3 than STL.

        • Lester-Arrietta-Hamels

          So much good pitching in baseball right now.

        • Can’t back that assertion up w results from this season.

          • I can absolutely back up the idea that LAD has seen 1-3 pitchers pitch better than STL, unless we go purely by ERA. I said PIT has the better top 3, but that it isnt a wide gap. STL pitchers have good not great FIP and xFIP when comparing to LAD. Lackey’s periphs show a guy getting some ERA luck and having oddly low HR totals.

            • Besides ERA, where Cards have clear advantage. Cards also have a higher Pitcher WAR, too. FIP is basically a wash between two clubs.

              Anderson has a higher WHIP and fewer SO than top 4 Cards SP.

              I’ll concede Dodgers have better top 2 SP than Cards, but Anderson is clearly weaker than any other SP considered in this thread.

              • Anderson: 3.12 ERA, 3.41 FIP. 3.29 xFIP, 3.16 SIERA
                Lackey (STL 3rd man): 3.09 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, 4.03 SIERA

                LAD top 3 SP FIP: 2.40, 2.77, 3.41
                STL top 3 FIP: 2.72, 3.08, 3.37

                STL is consistently worse going 1-1, 2-2, with 3 being their only win and xFIP and SIERA suggest thats not totally the entire story. LAD, on stats, is just simply better. Lackey’s periphs arent amazing, and LAD’s top 2 is just pitching super well.

                John Lackey is getting some fortune with his ERA, as his entire body of periphs show a much lesser option than Anderson. ERA is, for me, the least useful way to measure how a pitcher is actually performing and likely to perform.

                • Scott Kliesen
                  July 10, 2015 7:54 am

                  Lackey is Cards #4. Watchable, Lynn and Martinez are top 3.

                  • BS, clear and utter BS. Thats changing the nature of the argument to fit your initial assumption. In no way is Martinez 3rd on their depth chart or 3rd in their rotation. You are now arguing “the 3 best guys via stats” not
                    their top 3 in the rotation”.

                    John Lackey is the Cardinals 3rd man in their rotation.

                    • If your Matheny and you’re starting a playoff series tomorrow who starts game 1,2 & 3? This isn’t about who started season as #3, it’s about top 3 performing SP’s so far this season.

                    • I’d almost guarantee they’d have Lackey in their postseason rotation, first of all. Next, by that logic LAD gets to call Mike Bolsinger their 3rd man. C’mon now. Not only that, Martinez’s stats (beyond ERA) are barely better than Anderson and worse than Bolsinger.

                      Even using “best 3 via stats” LAD has a better 1-1, 2-2, 3-3.

                    • Scott Kliesen
                      July 10, 2015 10:32 pm

                      Bolsinger has 68 IP.

                    • Gotcha, you get to change the argument as much as you wish. Sounds good.

                      Thats a joke man. You are discrediting an LAD pitcher now after changing the nature of the argument to make STL look better. Of the men with arms that throw baseballs for both teams, the 3 best performers that throw currently all reside in LA.

  • Excellent comments and I especially liked the running year stats from the time he returned from the oblique strain. He and AJ Burnett have been “turn the corner” guys for the Pirates, signalling a new era of guys coming to the Pirates with top of the rotation possibilities and then doing even better than expected. He gives the Pirates the opportunity to win just about every time out.

  • Who would have thunk it, I have to agree though frankie has for sure fingered it out.

    • ‘fingered’ it out? 🙂

    • Good Lord…

      • Hello gramma, still correcting me even in death.: )

        • Dude, you’re so corny! Stick with your day job and away from the humor.

          • How about a dose of, BITE ME YOU WORTHLESS PILE OF WHALE CRAP! and you can get your corn from what I leave in the toilet. We are talking about a game it’s supposed to be fun and or funny, so take a suppository and chill for awhile.

            • I agree the game is supposed to be fun. Funny? Nah. Also, you’re not funny….Not even a little, just obnoxious and cheesy. Which you proved in your 6th grade reply…Take care.

              • Sour mean vindictive little arseholes like you deserve to be sour mean vindictive little arseholes. And you really need to develop a sense of humor maybe you won’t be a sour mean vindictive little arsehole. (Just a bit of advice, attack somebody else I don’t put up with a lot of crap from jackwads like you) Have a great day! : )

                • Yawn. I have a sense of humor. Just a more advanced one compared to you. Just a bit of advice, maybe try wearing thicker skin…You just showed everyone that you are a huge target. Lighten up a bit, Frances…Take care, amigo.

                  BTW, I never attacked you. I have a 9 year old that is really getting into the Bucs this year and likes to read the post on here. I don’t want to explain to him what “fingered” means. Not to mention the other inappropriate language you displayed. Clean up your act!

                  • If you don’t like what I write don’t read it. Some of the stuff you say is dumb as a box of rocks but I don’t stalk you. Also fingered means get caught and is in reference to a rather bad movie called frankie got fingered, so who’s mind was in the gutter on that one, as for inappropriate language I have never said anything stronger than damn, arsehole and crap are not curse words and if your nine year old has not heard them already I would be shocked. I am sorry that you were offended by my mild attempts to lighten the mood a bit, it’s not meant to be high brow just a smile and shake of the head is all I’m aiming for. So have a great day! : )

                    • better aim higher, willis. cause your act is bland….90% of your post have some feeble attempt at humor, it’s just not funny….at all. my post are dumb, but you were the one throwing a fit a couple months ago that Melancon should be demoted and Holdzkom should be up….This is the grown up table, you’re not quite ready. please, move on…nothing more needs to be said.