This off-season the writers at Pirates Breakdown will take a look at two different sets of projections for meaningful players on the roster and give you, the readers, their take on whether or not they think said player will meet, surpass, or fall below those projections. The projections for Steamer and ZiPs (created by Dan Szymborski) can be found on fangraphs.com. Yesterday, columnist Tyler Thomas took a look at the projections for shortstop Jordy Mercer. Today, we turn towards the top of the rotation with Francisco Liriano.
The Pirates may have some issues this upcoming season at the back-end of the rotation, but their top-end shouldn’t see many issues. Gerrit Cole has developed into one of the best pitchers in the game and seems to only be getting better. Francisco Liriano makes up the second-half of Pittsburgh’s dueling aces, and he is whether we shift out projection focus to today.
Liriano is probably Ray Searage’s most successful reclamation projection, right next to A.J. Burnett. He’s had sustained success over a three-year period with the Pirates now, and was one of the best bargains of the 2014-2015 off-season when the Pirates inked him to a three-year, $39 million deal. If Liriano can stay healthy, he should provide a great one-two punch with Cole once again in 2016.
Let’s take a peek at Liriano’s stats over the past two seasons and see how he’s projected to do in 2016.
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There’s nothing out of the ordinary for his projections, but they are different from each other. In essence, it seems like Steamer projects Liriano to pitch almost exactly like he did in 2015, while ZiPS projects him to pitch more like he did in 2013 (not shown in the table above, but he pitched to a 3.02 ERA in 161.0 innings then) and 2014. What this all boils down to is that Liriano has shown over a three-year window that he can be a consistently above-average pitcher, and that he wasn’t just a one-hit wonder reclamation project. Any reasonable projection would have Liriano pitching to an ERA somewhere in the 3.00 to 3.50 range, with strikeouts from 150 to 200 and his walk numbers somewhere between 50 and 100.
ZiPS projects Liriano to have a slightly lower ERA than Steamer does, and both have him at around the same WAR. Where the true difference lies is in the number of innings he’s projected to pitch. ZiPS sees him pitching closer to the number of innings he saw in 2013 (161) and 2014, while Steamer sees him pitching closer to the number he threw in 2015.
What does this all mean? Well Liriano should have a quality season in 2016. If he pitches below a 3.40 ERA, we should all be pleased; anything better is icing on the cake. The key for Liriano, as it has always been, will be staying healthy and limiting his walks. His BB/9 declined from 4.49 in 2014 to 3.38 in 2015, over a full walk per nine innings, and his 2015 was almost half a walk lower than his career BB/9 rate of 3.80. He’s also managed to stay relatively healthy with the Pirates, minus a couple of short DL stints in 2013 and 2014.
Which Liriano will show up in 2016? I feel that the Liriano we’ve seen in a Pirates uniform will show up once again. His numbers have been consistent from season to season in Pittsburgh, and the major injury issues he saw in the past haven’t been an issue in recent years. He’ll always have his issues with walks, but you take that with the strikeout rate he brings to the table. He should be a quality number two for the Pirates again in 2016.
Please click HERE to read more of our 2016 Projections analysis.
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