Francisco Liriano – an ace for the Pittsburgh Pirates?


After reaching the postseason for the second consecutive season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been relatively quiet this offseason; among the most notable moves was the re-signing of left-hander Francisco Liriano, who spent the past two seasons as a member of the club.

Over the past two years, the veteran southpaw has put together a 23-18 record – which seems to be a far stretch from ace material. Although that may be the case, it would be hard to overstate what he has meant to a Pirates rotation that has an abundance of youth including Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke in its ranks.

The southpaw, who agreed to terms with the Pirates on a three-year, $39 million deal earlier this offseason, has been one of the most consistent left-handers in the league of late – especially in the National League. Since joining Pittsburgh, Liriano has a 3.20 earned run average, has made at least 26 starts each season and has amassed 161 innings or more. Not only has he given manager Clint Hurdle quantity, but also quality – something that is hard to find today – especially from a left-hander.

If you take away Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels –  Francisco Liriano led the National League left-handers in ERA (3.38) and strikeouts (175) in 2014, which is something Pirates fans should rejoice at. Sure, he’s not exactly amongst the ranks of the aforementioned trio – but he’s clearly one of the best options available when it comes to lefties.

Last season, Liriano, in some regards, took a step back from his 2013 dominance (3.02 ERA, 2.59 SO/BB ratio) – but nonetheless, he showed signs of improvement in others (175 strikeouts last season as opposed to 163 in ’13). Gone are the days when a pitcher’s win-loss record the only measure of his success. For arms like this 31-year-old, that means better paydays and a more appreciated role in a team’s plans.

No, Francisco Liriano is not an ace. But for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he represents a willingness to win, a veteran leader and a dependable, quality left-handed option in the rotation. And for this team, that’s all you need.

Next: Locke v. Worley - the debate