By Jason Shetler
Following A.J. Burnett’s departure prior to the 2014 season, Francisco Liriano took over as the Pirates veteran ace of the pitching staff. The 32-year-old southpaw was a free agent last offseason, and re-signed with the Bucs on a three-year contract. Liriano has certainly been instrumental in the Pirates being a contender each of the last three years. Let’s compare Liriano’s stats from the past two seasons, and what his projection will be in 2016.
2014: 3.38 ERA, 106 ERA+, 3.59 FIP, 1.30 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 9.7 K/9, 1.9 WAR in 29 starts
2015: 3.38 ERA, 114 ERA+, 3.19 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 9.9 K/9, 3.6 WAR in 31 starts
2016 (FanGraphs): 3.30 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, 2.9 WAR in 30 starts
Although Liriano has posted the same exact ERA’s back-to-back seasons, his other figures from 2015 are better across the board than the year before. Last season, Liriano’s ability to rack up strikeouts and induce groundballs continued, as he put up an outstanding 9.9 K/9 while his groundball rate was at 51%. His trend of baffling hitters remained strong, posting a 14.3% swing and miss rate, as well as getting batters to chase pitches out of the strikezone 33.1% of the time. Liriano was able to make 31 starts, which was the first time he started at least 30 games since 2010 with the Minnesota Twins.
My analysis: When healthy, Francisco Liriano is one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game. As a matter of fact, he’s posted the third best K/9 ratio among NL starters since 2013 with only Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg ahead of him. Liriano should have another solid year in 2016.