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Is Liriano broken …. again?


PNC PARK – One of the worst things that could have happened (is happening?) for the Pirates in 2014 was for Francisco Liriano to revert to  his 2011-12, 2007-09 self. You know, the guy that lost velocity, walked too many batters, and posted three seasons of 5.00+ ERAs. We expected regression. We didn’t expect Liriano to repeat The Best Season Ever Against Left-Handed Hitters. The Pirates could afford some give back just not a lot of regression. So far in 2014, there’s been too much fallback.

Take a look at Liriano’s peripheral numbers & FIP:


k/9        bb/9      GB rates     HR/FB       FIP

9.11       3.52       50.5             8.3               2.92


8.84      4.06       46.7            14.8            3.98



The Pirates can’t afford for Liriano to pitch like this Liriano from late in 2012 who was banished to the U.S. Cellular Field bullpen


The peripherals, taken individually, don’t represent dramatic steps backward but the problem is he’s regressed slightly in every area a pitcher has control over: He’s striking out fewer batters, he’s walking more. He’s allowing more flyballs and more of those flyballs have gone for home runs. It all adds up to a significantly worse FIP (and ERA).

And perhaps this started last season. BucsDugout writer David Manel noted that Liriano’s ERA since Sept. 1 is 4.83.

A common thread throughout Liriano’s successes and failures has been velocity.

In the three seasons he’s posted 3+ Wins Above Replacement and been a dominant pitcher – 2006, 2010, 2013 – he’s had a fastball tat averaged at least 93 mph. In all his subpar seasons, excluding 2012, he’s had a fastball that averaged a reading below 92.0.

This season, Liriano’s fastball is averaging 91.7 mph. Again on Saturday, it was between 91-94 mph. Good, but not the 92-96 mph stuff we saw consistently last season.

Thus far this season, Liriano appears to have a little less stuff, a little less margin for error, leading to a decline performance across the board.

Now, the weather has been cool and Liriano did not begin pitching until May of last season. So perhaps the Pirates can hope for a velocity increase. If not their No. 1 pitcher from a year ago might be more like a No. 3 or No. 4 starter and that’s the biggest regression concern of any the club had entering the season.

– TS



  1. Andrew says:

    The entire rotation is broke, except the new, low walk, low strikeout, groundball, Volquez. Can Polanco pitch?

  2. Travis Sawchik says:

    Well, Polanco was first showcased as a pitcher in the Dominican ….

  3. Steelkings says:

    This may be the worst non topic yet. A reach for sure. Cmon man!

  4. Steelkings says:

    How bout this: The Cubs who are busy taking care of the Cardinals are about to be a full game ahead of your Pirates that are all alone in the cellar of the NL central. The question for me is not whether the pirates can challenge for a playoff spot, rather can they not be the worst team in baseball by the end of the season.

  5. Ghost says:

    I hereby dub Steelkings and NMR “The Topic Police.” THAT’S A JOKE!!! Giving a thumbs down to a blog entry on a given day is fair enough.
    I did just take a peak at all of Liriano’s starts to date, this year. Only these last two — one in which he was ill — are really bad. It just ‘feels’ like he’s having a bad year — he’s actually not. But you guys do give Travis a bit of a hard time just for posing legitimate questions. It’s good fun chewing over the different possibilities and moving parts as the 2014 campaign unfolds. We’re baseball junkies and I hope Travis keeps feeding the habit.

  6. Ghost says:

    There’s a coach in the Blue Jays organization called Steve Springer who played AAA ball under Clint Hurdle sometime during the late ’90’s, I think it was. I heard a presentation of his in which he spoke about Hurdle’s grading system for at-bats. He said Hurdle would write a “Q” in the score book for every at-bat deemed a “quality at-bat,” regardless of the outcome. Was good reading the piece today that gave more detail on some of the specific things that qualified as a “Q” at-bat. And that Clint even had his own sort of sabermetricky over-under line of Q’s that over time would be predictive of game outcomes — groovy cool!

  7. LeeFoo says:

    Liriano has NEVER had back to back good seasons.

    Hurdle has NEVER had back to back winning seasons.

    just sayin….

  8. Amarillo_Fats says:

    I just looked at the standings, and the Pirates and Cubs are both 8 1/2 games back, with the Pirates at .400 and the Cubs at .393. Nothing to brag about, but also not “all alone in last place”.

    Plus, Ryan Braun just went on the 15-day DL. I wouldn’t be running the bath water and getting out the straight-razor until at least the All-Star Break.

  9. Rico says:

    Both of you need to look at the standings again. The Pirates are only 2 games behind the Reds and 2.5 behind StL. Milwaukee is not going to play .675 ball all year and in fact has lost 3 out of their last 4. If the Bucs can get more consistent starting pitching–and it does not take a big stretch of imagination to see that happening–a climb up the ladder is inevitable.

  10. BostonsCommon says:

    I think Liriano figures it out and ends up performing well when all is said and done this year. More glaring than the minor drop in velo and spotty command is the unsustainably high HR/FB. His other peripherals, while not outstanding, do point to some bad luck. He’s still K-ing about a batter an inning with >2:1 K:BB.

    In the end, it’s about getting paid, and I’m sure Franky realizes how big this season is for him in that regard. We’re not yet to the quarter pole, with warm temps coming. My money is with Franky the rest of the way.

  11. Chuck H says:

    Can’t wait for Jeff Locke to bomb out again. But it’s not fair to start him against SF. He hasn’t a chance in h—.

  12. Chuck H says:

    Volquez got what he was asking for. When you walk the bases loaded, what do you expect???

  13. Steelkings says:

    All I meant was that it is easy to see that Liriano is in a (hopefully Mini) regression. Things that I cant see with the naked eye are what I like about Travis and Rob’s really good posts and articles. Those are the ones we talk about and debate the most. They get access to something we dont. One of the things I really liked about the other rags old site before the other rag dismantled it for money, was the content you couldn’t get simply reading the paper. It was a mini “insiders” club. I am yet to replace that feel.

    Get a snippet from coach Searage about what Jeff Locke is working on. Call Dean Treanor and get us some insider info there. Just dont tell me that Liriano is in a slump and not expect me to Yawn.

  14. Nate83 says:

    Why is that. San Fran. doesn’t seem all that remarkable to me. Definitely not the 27′ Yankees or the 2014 Brewers :)

  15. Goose says:

    Locke, if given the chance will prove more reliable this year than everyone thinks.

  16. Naterosboro says:

    just increases the odds that

    Liriano DOES have a good season for back-to-backs


    Hurdle DOES have a winning season for back-to-backs

    just saying… ;-)

  17. erad67 says:

    I detest this newish style of American speaking. The “just saying” garbage.


    Nate, SF only has the 2nd best record in MLB

    Rico, Pgh may only be 2 and 2.5 games behind cin and stl, but they are 5.5 games out of 2nd wildcard with 7 teams in front of them. What gives you any belief the pitching will turn around??? Liriano with no history of good back to back seasons, wandy not getting hurt, volquez not pitching with a over 5 era, morton having a good yr. the pitching is bad and it was foolish to think it wouldnt be. I don’t know how many teams with the 4th WORST record starting the month of may have made the playoffs. According to ESPN, no team this far back has made the playoffs.

  19. Nate83 says:

    Well they have only scored 11 runs more then the Pirates this year and have a guy pitching tonight that is TBA. Before their last 10 games they where 11-10. Don’t get me wrong they are a good team but I wouldn’t say that Locke has “no chance in h—“, which was the comment I was responding to. I don’t mind glass half empty views but when your glass is completely empty why root for the team at all.

  20. Andrew says:

    Nate to answer your last question, there isn’t a term in English but German has one; Schadenfreude, which means taking or finding joy in others misfortune.


    My problem is with management and the way most fans give them a pass for doing their jobs poorly. There was at least an extra 20 million in revenue to work with and they didn’t do anything in the offseason. I’m not saying spend like the yankees, but st louis/cinn/milwaukee all have payrolls around 110 million and they aren’t large market teams. You can call me glass all empty but that is what it is. who on the current roster is starting somewhere else besides mccutcheon and martin possibly marte. walker is playing well now but will he keep it up. everybody else would be in a platoon. There is no excuse for management not making off season moves and no excuse for not having a higher payroll by paying for at least everyday starters (ss/rf/1b). polonco isnt up because of money even tho he is probably the 5th best player on the current roster. management promised changes once they started to win, well that happened last year and they let talent go. that’s why the glass is empty.

  22. Nate83 says:

    That’s fair enough. I’m frustrated as well that the money will be spent when the time is right comment has not shown to be true. However I believe this team is better then what they are currently showing. Not a single guy has come out of the gate looking like they are going to have a career year. The exact opposite has happened. Many are playing well below the standard they set for themselves especially the pitching staff.

    There is still a lot to be excited about. They have a nice core of players and more on the way. The team is positioned to compete much better then they where 6 years ago. This start is frustrating but I have to believe the pitching and defense will be better for stretches of this year.

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