| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Stats Corner: Pirates' Liriano better than his ERA suggests

Pirates/MLB Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Pirates podcasts

  • Loading...

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By David Golebiewski
Saturday, May 24, 2014, 9:10 p.m.

Strong starting pitching was the lifeblood of the Pirates' streak-busting 2013 postseason run, with the rotation combining for the fifth-best ERA (3.50) in the majors. Entering Saturday night's game, Pirates starters had the sixth-worst ERA (4.47) this season.

Aside from recent roster casualty Wandy Rodriguez, no starter has regressed more than Francisco Liriano. Or has he?

The left-hander was brilliant after signing with the Pirates, posting his lowest ERA (3.02) since 2006 and becoming the first player to win Comeback Player of the Year twice. But Liriano's ERA has ballooned to 4.86 in 2014, and he's averaging just 5.4 innings per start after lasting 6.2 frames per outing last year.

Dig deeper, though, and you'll find that Liriano still is pitching more like the guy who shut down Cincinnati and St. Louis in the playoffs than the manager-torturing enigma of years past.

He's striking out batters (8.9 K/9) and scorching earth (52.3 percent ground ball rate) while displaying acceptable control (4 BB/9) — the same recipe for success as 2013. But his ERA has spiked because he's stranding few base runners and allowing lots of home runs per fly ball hit. Those stats are more a product of luck than skill and tend to regress toward a player's career averages over time.

Years Strand Rate HR/FB Pct.

Liriano, 2014 69.4 16.3

Liriano, career 70.9 10.7

Source: Fangraphs

Liriano's ERA should be in the mid-threes according to expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), which estimates runs allowed based on strikeouts, walks and a normalized HR/FB rate. He has the fourth-largest gap between ERA and xFIP among hard-luck NL starters:

Pitcher ERA xFIP Diff.

Brandon McCarthy 4.67 2.88 1.79

Homer Bailey 5.34 3.60 1.74

Bartolo Colon 5.34 3.81 1.53

Francisco Liriano 4.86 3.53 1.33

Edwin Jackson 4.94 3.71 1.23

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pirates

  1. Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
  2. Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 28, 2015
  3. Pirates notebook: No sign of improvement for RHP Sadler
  4. Cole collects MLB-best 14th win as Pirates take series against Nationals
  5. Pirates minor league report: Moore a breakout star in Morgantown
  6. Making splash at MLB trade deadline not always in buyers’ best interest
  7. Starting 9: Pirates help and the illusion of help
  8. Nationals pound Burnett, Pirates
  9. Pirates notebook: Ramirez thrown into spotlight upon joining Pirates
  10. Gameday: Pirates vs. Nationals, July 26, 2015
  11. Pirates bats awaken, Liriano looks strong in win against Nationals