July 31, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (58) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Liriano signing adds needed experience to rotation

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Following rumors that the Pirates were chasing a starter, the team got their man in Francisco Liriano a two year agreement worth $12.5 million.

While this is a gamble for the Pirates, they have a starter who at 29 provides a veteran arm that gives younger starters a relief. Youngsters Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson and Andrew Oliver among others now will compete for one spot and to me this gives the Pirates a better chance of winning. While these three have experienced time in the Major Leagues, they have not experienced a full 162 game season. Locke saw a mixture of time as a starter and reliever in the majors, McPherson is currently injured and Oliver is new to the Pirates and his ERA with the Tigers was not all that impressive.

Liriano is a lefty and projected to be the fourth starter on the team and now the Pirates have two lefties which provides more balance. While his velocity can be inconsistent his fastball can average 91-93 and his strikeout per nine rate of 9.6 will allow for plenty of swings and misses when combined with A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald.

Liriano needs to work on his control and that may be a pet project for Ray Searage.

Liriano essentially is the replacement for Kevin Correia who oddly enough signed with one of Liriano’s former teams the Minnesota Twins. The signing also officially eliminates any remaining chance of Jeff Karstens coming back to the club and all of the drama that has provided.

The Pirates signing Liriano at the price they are is a leap of faith. I believe the Pirates are expecting him to be the next A.J. Burnett. Pitching at PNC Park with his groundball rate of 43.8% in 156 2/3 innings and with his strikeout rate they are hoping for wins. As possible as that could be, it may just be smoke and mirrors. The Pirates signed another lefty, Erik Bedard last off-season and his groundball rate was high as well, however he did not make it through the season. Going into the last off-season, the Pirates opted not to pick up the option of another groundball pitcher, Paul Maholm, a move that many Pirates fans are not pleased with now.

Liriano’s signing is not official yet and he likely will have his physical after Christmas. Liriano was a name spread around as a good fit for the Pirates but experts said he was ‘above the Pirates price range’. The fact that he is a Pirate debunks that rumor and shows that the Pirates were not only willing to take a gamble but also not as satisfied in their young arms as they aluded to at PirateFest.

Liriano saw time as a starter and reliever with the Twins and Chicago White Sox last season and had a cumulative WAR with -0.3 [it was 0.2 with the White Sox].

With Neal Huntington’s job on the line in many circles, maybe this is his Matt Morris signing, meaning perhaps this is his swan song, Liriano struggles with control. Whether or not that is an overreaction, time will tell.

Francisco Liriano facts:

1. Career: 6 seasons 53-54 4.40 ERA 880 k’s 1.35 WHIP
2012: 6-12 5.34 ERA 167 k’s 1.47 WHIP

2. Signed as international free agent in 2000 by San Francisco. Traded to the Twins along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser in exchange for A.J. Pierzynski.

3. Often drew comparisons to then fellow Twins lefty Johan Santana.

4. Led all minor leaguers with 205 k’s in 2005.

5. November 6, 2006 Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2007 season.

6. Liriano threw a no-hitter May 3, 2011 against the White Sox. It was a 1-0 win and his first complete game and he threw 123 pitches. He did walk six batters in that game.

7. He was traded to the White Sox on July 28, 2012 in exchange for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez.

8. Liriano struck out 15 batters July 13, 2012 against the Oakland Athletics.

9. In 2012, Liriano threw his slider the most around 33% of the time. His next most popular pitch was his sinker around 28% of the time. He threw his fastball around 22% of the time and the changeup around 17% of the time.

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Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

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