Francisco Liriano struggled in big games last year.
I want to say how I truly feel about this comment, but I’ll tone it down a bit here: The thought that Liriano pitched poorly in “important” games cannot be further from the truth.
Using 2010 statistics, I decided to see how Liriano pitched against playoff teams and those that finished with a .500+ record.
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You may want to note that even with his playoff start against the Yankees included, Liriano was a damn fine pitcher against playoff teams last season. He did struggle a bit against the Yankees compared to the other 3 playoff teams he faced based on ERA, but he certainly dominated those other teams.
Now, let’s take a look when he faced the .500+ teams.
Liriano’s numbers certainly take a dip here, but it’s not like he became a completely different pitcher. Yes, the 4.22 ERA is worse than his 2.91 ERA against only the playoff teams and higher than his 3.62 season ERA, but that’s still useful for a starting pitcher. While he did average under 6 innings, he also averaged roughly 3 earned runs per outing, meaning he’s just short of averaging a quality start against these teams. I dare you to find a baseball coach that wouldn’t take that against the better teams in the league.
If you’re curious about the second row under the “Average” row, that’s the average of starts excluding the September 14th-30th starts. The reason I excluded those is because it appeared as though Liriano was tiring towards the end of the season, and the Tigers start on Sept. 24th was shortened due to having the flu.
Well then, no wonder some of us believe that Liriano was terrible in these games. Having a 6.84 ERA in your last 5 starts against .500+ teams (including the Yankees playoff game) will be noted by the “What have you done for us lately?” folks, especially when those 5 games are consecutive.
By far, Liriano is the best starting pitcher on the Twins staff, and trading him for anything less than a player that could be just as dominant is a mistake. For those that wouldn’t mind seeing him gone, hopefully this post will help you realize that he was better in the big games than you may think.