Francisco Liriano has been one-quarter of the four-headed monster that the Pittsburgh Pirates have used to pull themselves to second in all of baseball in ERA at 2.79 (prior to Tuesday night’s game). Both Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett will likely be selections to represent the Pirates at the All-Star Game next month, but Liriano hasn’t been mentioned in that category.
It makes sense for Cole and Burnett. After all, they’re one-two in ERA in the National League and Cole leads the league in wins (all stats are as of Tuesday night). Liriano was the victim of one horrible outing, a two-inning, seven run effort against the Twins back on May 19th. His ERA would be much lower than the already-low 2.94 that it currently stands at if it weren’t for that one meltdown, which, unfortunately, he can’t erase. He hasn’t been as consistent as Cole or Burnett, but when Liriano is on, he may be the best of the bunch.
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The pitchers for the all-star game are selected by the manager, which, this year, is San Francisco Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy. Last year, 18 pitchers made the NL all-star team, 12 of whom were starters (11 were on the active roster, as one was replaced due to injury). If that is any indication of this year’s roster, Liriano will have to be one of the 11 best starting pitchers in the National League, or somewhere in the 10-12 best range. Unreasonable? Certainly not.
Liriano currently ranks 12th in the NL in ERA at 2.94. That alone (often the most popular stat for rating pitchers) puts him right on the edge of selection. His WAR of 1.6 puts him at 15th in the NL, again, on the outside looking in for pitchers. However, he ranks fifth in strikeouts with 99, third in WHIP at 0.96, tied for fourth in quality starts with 10, and third in K/9 at 10.78. He also ranks first in batting average against at .176, and by a large margin (the next closest is Max Scherzer at .195). Essentially, the most weighted stats in ERA and WAR put Liriano on the edge of making the team, but there are plenty of other stats that place him among the best pitchers in all of the National League.
What Liriano might have going in his favor is the fact that he’s left-handed. Among left-handed starters that qualify based on innings pitched, Liriano ranks first in ERA, second in WAR, tied for first in quality starts, first in WHIP, and third in strikeouts. He may be the best left-handed starter in the NL up to this point of the season. Of course, manager selections aren’t necessarily based on handedness like in-game decisions often are, but Bruce Bochy may want a left-handed starter for late-inning purposes should the game be close. Liriano will have plenty of competition moving forward should handedness be a factor in Bochy’s selection, including Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, and Gio Gonzalez.
Both Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett will likely be selections to represent the Pirates at the All-Star Game next month, but Liriano hasn’t been mentioned in that category.
It’s also important to note that Bruce Bochy has seen Liriano first-hand this year. On June 3rd in San Francisco, Liriano pitched seven innings of one-run ball on just four hits and one walk. When a manager sees a player first-hand, that manager may have a better analysis of that player. That June 3rd game could only have helped Liriano’s case.
Francisco Liriano is getting better with each start. Since that rough outing against Minnesota, Liriano’s ERA has plummeted from 4.15 to 2.94. He likely has five more starts before the All-Star Game, but he’ll have his work cut out for him in those five games. He’ll face Washington, Atlanta, Detroit, San Diego, and St. Louis. Outside of Atlanta, each of those teams has a potentially potent offense. If he can continue pitching like he has of late, however, he has the ability to dominate any offense in baseball. Maybe Franky will give the Bucs a trifecta of starting pitchers at the Midsummer Classic this season.