Top 10 Pittsburgh Pirates of the first half

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Jul 2, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

#6 – Francisco Liriano

The first piece of the dominant trifecta at the top of the Pirates’ starting rotation, and the Opening Day starter in 2015, is Francisco Liriano. His performance hasn’t been given enough credit this year, as he’s often been overshadowed by Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett, despite pitching at a pace to have his best season in Pittsburgh yet. He could be an ace on many staffs, but is sitting as the third-best starting pitcher on the Pirates’ dominant staff.

Liriano has pitched to a 2.98 ERA so far this season and holds a low WHIP of 1.03. He had an outside shot at the All-Star game for a while, but fell off recently due to a few rough starts. But he’s excelled in many areas so far in 2015. He’s thrown 125 strikeouts to 39 walks, and should threaten the 200 strikeout mark. He’s been worth 2.4 wins above replacement this season, and he could challenge the 3.0 mark he set in Pittsbugh in 2013. What stands out about Liriano is the fact that he’s held opponent’s to a career-low .192 batting average against, as well as career-lows in opponent’s slugging percentage at .291 and opponent’s OPS at .556. In many ways, he’s having one of the best seasons of his career and is more than living up the the contract he signed with Pittsburgh this past offseason.

Based on how he’s pitching during his career in Pittsburgh, there’s no reason to think that he shouldn’t at least hold his ERA around 3.00 throughout the rest of the season. He does sometimes have rough starts, depending on how many walks he gives up, but when he’s on, he can be the best pitcher on a staff that holds the second-best ERA in all of baseball.

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