An Ode, And A Thank You, To Francisco Liriano


Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded left-handed starting pitcher Francisco Liriano to the Toronto Blue Jays after 3+ great seasons in Pittsburgh.

On December 21st, 2012, the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to one of their most important free agent contracts in franchise history. That’s because of this day the Pirates agreed to a two year contract with Francisco Liriano. Even though this contract would eventually be voided, and a new one signed two months later, it was on this day Liriano first became a Pirate.

A lot of Pittsburgh Pirate fans were skeptical of this signing, and understandably so. Francisco Liriano was coming off a season in which he had a Major League worse 5.34 ERA, to go along with a 4.34 FIP and averaging 5.00 BB/9, in 156 2/3 innings pitched. In fact, his efforts in 2012 saw him traded from the Twins to the White Sox, and then demoted to the White Sox’s bullpen.

Even though there was reason to be skeptical of Francisco Liriano when he debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates in May of 2013, he quickly put an end to everyone’s worries. In fact, #FrankieSaysRelax would even quickly become a favorite hashtag of Pirates’ Twitter. It did not take Francisco Liriano long to become a stabilizing force in the Pirates’ rotation.

Even though Francisco Liriano’s final season in Pittsburgh was an utter disaster, I sincerely hope fans remember him not for that but for what he did from 2013-2015. During those three seasons Francisco Liriano was as good as any left-handed starting pitcher in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner. And during those three seasons, Francisco Liriano played a huge role in turning around the sinking ship that was the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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During those three seasons Francisco Liriano posted a 3.26 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 3.22 xFIP in 510 innings pitched. In those 510 innings pitched Liriano averaged 9.58 K/9, 3.78 BB/9, and just 0.65 HR/9. During this time Francisco Liriano was one of the hardest pitchers to hit in the National League, allowing just 7.3 H/9.

Even with 2016 being the worst season of his Major League career, Francisco Liriano still finishes his career as a Pittsburgh Pirate with great numbers. Liriano finishes his Pirate career with a 3.67 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 659 strikeouts, and 534 hits allowed in 623 2/3 innings pitched. All very strong numbers from Filthy Frankie.

Francisco Liriano was also someone who bought into the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. After the 2014 season Liriano was a free agent and could have made huge money on the open market. Instead, he took a hometown discount to remain in Pittsburgh. That offseason the Pirates and Liriano agreed to a new three-year, 36 million dollar contract.

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When Francisco Liriano was on, he was as dominant as any pitcher in baseball. Watching a vintage Filthy Frankie start when he could spot his fastball, and get hitters to hack hopelessly at his slider and change up was such a joy. Liriano became the best starting pitcher the Pirates had since the days of Doug Drabek, John Smiley, and Zane Smith.

Francisco Liriano also started two of the most important games in the history of PNC Park. Liriano started for the Pittsburgh Pirates in both the 2013 National League Wild Card Game, as well as game three of the 2013 National League Division Series. Francisco Liriano started both of these games, pitched extremely well in both of them, and the Pirates picked up both of franchise’s postseason wins at PNC Park in those games.

On a personal note, the 2013 National League is a night I will never forget. I will never forget how rockous PNC Park was that night, how loud the ballpark was after Johnny Cueto dropped the ball and Russell Martin hit a home run, or how it felt to walk out of PNC Park that night with tears of joy in my eyes. Liriano started that night for the Pirates, and hurled seven brilliant innings allowed just one run. He would back that up with six innings of two run ball in the Pirates 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of NLDS that season. Another game that I was lucky enough to attend.

Francisco Liriano played a huge role in making the Pittsburgh Pirates winners again. Next to A.J. Burnett, there is no pitcher that played a bigger role in that than Liriano did. For that I say thank you, Frankie. You will forever be one of my favorites, and you will be missed. Best of luck in Toronto.