Is Erik Bedard A Sign Of The Pittsburgh Pirates Future With New Southpaw Francisco Liriano?

Pitching at PNC Park was a benefit for Pittsburgh Pirates Erik Bedard last season, but those perks vanished when he pitched on the road in 2012.  The southpaw signed a minor league deal with the Houston Astros this week thanks in large part to the gem of a ballpark we have come to love over the years.   Looking back on the Pirates Opening Day starter is rather painful–but only when looking at the overall picture.

We thought it would be wise to look a bit deeper at some facts that might indicate why the Bucs felt it was so important to secure the left-handed Francisco Liriano, who has pitched over 800 Major League innings, even if he is clumsy in the bathroom.

It’s insanely easy to pick apart the poor moments that Bedard lingered on the pitching rubber in 2012.  The lefty sucked so badly, that the team cut him loose before the season ended.

But don’t forget, near the mid-point of 2012 Bedard led the Majors in losses while posting a sparkling PNC Park ERA of 2.38.  The Baffling Erik Bedard was a common post on this blog in 2012.  We copied one of them for you below:

The Pittsburgh Pirates Erik Bedard fired a two-hitter at the Arizona Diamondbacks last night at PNC Park

The date was July 7, 2012. We called Erik Bedard baffling.

On August 7, 2012–we called Erik Bedard baffling once again.

Erik Bedard

“His first pitch strikes were in a good place. You can’t pitch much better than that.” Clint Hurdle

Yeah, Clint. He was damn near perfect against Arizona, who came into the Burgh having scored 106 runs since July 18, which was the most in the majors during that span.

Back on July 7 Erik Bedard baffled us. He went three innings without giving up a hit. He looked smooth, especially after giving up a leadoff walk and then snaring a groundball up the middle and stutter-stepping it into a 6-4-3 double play.

Sure, Gorkys Hernandez helped Bedard with some stellar defense in left field. And, yes, Bedard walked too many batters, and has been hit very hard recently, but one damn inning and a couple of inches destroyed the left hander last night, as the Pirates fell to the San Francisco Giants 6-5 at PNC Park.

The Bucs jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and looked like they were going to Zoltan their way to their fifth win in a row. Andrew McCutchen hit a ball into the notch and the best sight in the game was on. Neil Walker just missed hitting a bomb to left field, knocking it off the top of the wall for a double, and Barry Zito was on the ropes.

But silly shit was happening, like Casey McGehee trying to bunt, McGehee hitting into a killer double play, Pedro Alvarez taking a third strike on a baseball that appeared to be screaming for Pedro to murder it.

And Bedard’s control was about to come back to bite him. Some shoddy defense, and the next thing you know Melky Cabrera was keeping his head down while in the tee box while crushing a tw0- iron heater into the left field bleachers.

The Pirates left hander had cruised through the first nine Giants batters over the first three innings, and then saw all nine Giants hitters in the fourth inning alone before being lifted for Chris Resop, who needed just one pitch to record the last out and end the threat.

 

We wrote this which everyone in this town was praying would be true …….maybe the All-Star break could do Bedard some good – maybe he can oil up those screws and come back tighter in the second half.

Well, he certainly did that.

Bedard came back to go 13.2 innings with 15 strikeouts at Colorado and at PNC against the Cubs. Bedard was back! But then, a trip to Chicago followed where Bedard was thumped for eight runs in the windy city.

Shit. Bedard isn’t back, he’s struggling again.

Nope.

Just when most everyone was writing him off, the lefty fired a two-hitter against an Arizona Diamondbacks team hungry to get into the Wild Card race. Bedard allowed only two hits, both to lefty killer Paul Goldschmidt, but even Goldschmidt was erased on one occasion by the Pirates excellent defense. Starling Martes’ highlight throw nailed Goldschmidt at second base by ten feet.

If it wasn’t for Goldschmidt, Bedard was perfect.

__________________

If you’re interested take a look at Bedards’ numbers through July:

 

The month of June stood out to us:  5 runs allowed at Milwaukee, 7 runs allowed at the Baltimore massacre, and 4 runs in Philly.  Those awful outings were mixed with two nice starts at PNC–2 runs against the Royals and only one run allowed against the Twins.

Figure it out yet?

No?  Neither did we.  PNC Park was truly home for Bedard it appeared.

____________________

So as Bedard now gets set to have another shot in the Houston Astros Training Camp, we are left to ponder some of his numbers while pitching at PNC Park.  We have often heard of the advantages, but wanted to get a little bit of proof for ourselves.

Erik Bedard reduced his homeruns allowed while pitching at PNC Park to career low numbers in 2012.  PNC Park proved to be a major advantage for Bedard. When pitching on the road in 2012, Bedard set a career high in HR/9. (Unfortunately, we were first hand witnesses of some of the Bedard-ugly at Camden Yards.)  [Click graph to embiggen]

Erik Bedard and PNC Park were a nice match when looking at specific metrics in 2012

Francisco Liriano nearly matched Bedard’s numbers in home runs allowed per nine in 2011.    The southpaw reduced his homers allowed on the road, but didn’t have the PNC Park advantage that Bedard did and the number of bombs he allowed in his home park(s) doubled in 2012.   [Click graph to embiggen]

Look at another surprising small sample from 2012 of Bedard at PNC.    The BABIP at PNC Park was sparkling.  But on the road?   Not so much. [Click graph to embiggen]

Take a look at what Liriano has done over his career with his BABIP numbers.  They are higher than the numbers Bedard brought with him when he signed with the Bucs, in fact 2011 is the only year in the past five years that Liriano has posted a BABIP below .300.  In 2011 he put up a .290 while Bedard put up a .295.  Bedard came to the Buccos and posted a .314 in large part on the road.  [Click graph to embiggen]

As we wrote when we snapped this pic at Spring Training, Bedards’ 2012 campaign really boiled down to one thing for us.   How in the hell was he going to pitch effectively wearing a knee brace the size of Delaware under his uniform?  Bedard proved to be solid at PNC, but a road warrior he was not.

So now that we’ve looked at some similarities, what can we expect from Liriano?  We would think the homers per nine innings will reduce and his BABIP will also dip in 2012.  But as we prepare to set our eyes on the Pirates adding Francisco Liriano to their rotation in 2012, a couple of things concern us:

Bedard was born in 1979, Liriano in 1983.   Look….. When we land in Bradenton this February–as long as we don’t zoom in on some mysterious brace covering Lirianos’ humerus or worse, his knee, we think Liriano is a better risk than Bedard.  Liriano has thrown 237 less Major League innings than Bedard, Liriano, at least to us, seems less fragile.  Yeh, sure, he’s been known to get injured fielding groundballs, but Liriano is a rather big boy.

The most prevelant concern is one that we had about Bedard too.  Can Liriano find the damn strike zone?

Similar to Bedard, Liriano will not blow away hitters.  Hell, he was demoted from the starting rotation to the bullpen for the Twins and the Sox in the same season. Hence, the high risk part of the equation. He’s a pitcher that when he is filling up the zone, his slider and change can make the bad guys look silly.

Like Bedard in 2012, Liriano had a stretch of brilliance.  Liriano had a 63 inning, ten start period where he posted a 2.84 ERA with 77 strikeouts, just 28 walks and a 45 percent groud ball rate while giving up three homers.  So, yeh, Liriano can be just as baffling as Erik Bedard.

But also like Bedard, when he struggles to throw strikes, he can fill up the scoreboard. Liriano has failed miserably over the past two years in preventing runs.  He’s almost 30 years old and allowed over five runs a game in his 28 starts this year with the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox.

The 6’2″ Dominican born Liriano struck out 167 batters in 156.2 innings in 2012, but also walked 87, so yeh, he has some control issues. 87 walks is a big number. A real big number.

But we think it’s a number Ray Searage is going to do his damndest to rectify.

And PNC Park will do its fair share too.

Graphs from FanGraphs

Topics: Pittsburgh Pirates

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