Better Than Advertised

Amid all of these trade rumors about Francisco Liriano, I’ve seen comments similar to this pop up every now and then, especially since his playoff “struggles” versus the New York Yankees in October.

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.

Click to enlarge

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.

Click to enlarge

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.

5 Responses to “Better Than Advertised”

  1. AW Says:

    Good Call – the Twins would be foolish to trade Liriano at this point for anything other than a left-handed starting pitcher with equal or greater talent – - and I have yet to hear such a player mentioned. Why would they do that now, when they can hang onto him for another year under a reasonable salary, see what he does, and worst case scenario, he has a monster year and hits free agency. This team has a nucleus of good players ready to win this year, and Liriano is a major part of that.

    • Andrew Says:

      Probably can’t call yourself Andrew without everyone getting confused about the two of us!

      There are some good players in the Yankees system, as I’m starting to find out, but I feel like the Twins would have to be blown away in order to trade Liriano.

  2. JimCrikket Says:

    Sounds like you’re stretching a bit, to me. I’m rather ambivalent about the idea of trading Liriano, personally. You don’t just give away a guy with his talent for a few magic beans (otherwise known as “hot prospects”) that may never grow in to anything, but I don’t see him as a reliable top of the rotation guy for years and years, either. If you can get someone to overpay and you think you can replace him adequately, fine.

    But your argument sounds kind of like the same thing Liriano critics are doing… a little cherry picking with his stats. Just as you criticize them for focusing only on the end of the season, while ignoring the rest of the year, you’re coming up with excuses for his lackluster finish. All of those starts count, the good and the bad. And for a team that talks about focusing on wanting to get to the “next level”, a pitcher’s performance at the end of the season takes on greater importance, doesn’t it?

    Liriano should probably be recognized for what he is… an extremely talented pitcher with some flaws that amount to ‘red flags’.

    • Andrew Says:

      Did I cherry pick his stats? When I eliminated the last month of the season against .500+ teams, yes I did. But factoring in all .500+ teams, a 4.22 ERA isn’t that bad, especially when some fans are making it sound like Liriano was roughed up in these types of games.

  3. Putting Sabermetrics To The Test: The Rotation « Off The Mark Says:

    [...] from 2010, even though many people felt that he pitched poorly against good teams last year – an argument I debunked earlier this offseason. I know that 200 innings is the magic cutoff for starting pitchers, and Liriano failed to reach [...]

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