Pittsburgh Pirates Can't Rely On Francisco Liriano Being Great In 2014

By Zach Morrison
Francisco Liriano
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Francisco Liriano is clearly an extremely talented pitcher. He was the NL Comeback Player of the Year winner in 2013 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, as we all know, to be a comeback player of the year, the winner has to be coming off of a bad previous season. This is basically how Liriano’s entire career has gone. He has a good season, followed by a few mediocre seasons and just keeps repeating that process.

After an up-and-down career that was once threatened by Tommy John surgery, he joined the Pirates coming off two horrible seasons in 2011 and 2012, going 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA and 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA respectively. Now we are at his first season with the Pirates, 2013, one of his best seasons ever. In 161 innings, he went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA.

While his history shows that relying on him to have great back-to-back seasons in a huge gamble, it certainly isn’t impossible for him to repeat it with the Pirates. There are multiple factors that could aid Liriano in his pursuit of back-to-back strong seasons, including being in the NL, pitching in a park that is favorable for left-handed pitchers and being a pitcher for an organization with great pitching coaches.

There are trends that go along with whether or not Liriano has a good season. For instance, when he has a good season, his walk rates are lower than his career averages and his ground ball percentages are higher than 50 percent. When Liriano is able to limit walks and get ground balls, he is extremely successful. When he can’t command his pitches, he allows a lot of base runners and gets hit hard frequently.

As long as Liriano and the Pirates recognize where his success stems from and try their best to execute a strategy to make sure he is able to induce ground balls, Liriano may be able to repeat success for the first time in his career.

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