Thursday, May 16, 2013

Francisco Liriano, take 2

Disclaimer: I am not in favor of the Liriano contract.  I think we outbid ourselves on a dude who is way too wild to be a starter.  He's potentially a great strikeout specialist out of the pen, but he will be walking far too many dudes to be allowed to see a lineup more than once.

But he's here and he's starting, so let's talk about this optimistically.

He had a very encouraging debut a week ago.  5.1 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 1 ER.  That's not bad!

Let's look closer:

63% of his pitches were for strikes; nothing strange here, career norm is 62%.

First pitch strikes: also 63%.  This one is a spike.  Career norm is 55% and MLB average is 59%.

He went 3-0 on two guys, and 0-2 on six.

Average speed on the fastball was 92.8 mph, which is right around the ~93 mph he averaged last season.  This is very good to see.  It's also worth noting that almost all of his fastballs were two-seamers, which builds on a trend he got into last season.  This shows that he's no longer trying to overpower hitters (though a 93mph average could still be considered powerful), but instead aiming to sink and move the ball.  Slider and change-up both solid.

Finally, let's look at the Mets' lineup he saw...

53.3% of pitches were swung at.  That sucks, Mets!  You're helping a guy out!  Normally, batters will swing at about 45% of Liriano's pitches.  70% of the time, batters are able to hold up on pitches he throws out of the zone; the Mets only took 60% of those.  So yes, they were part of the story here.

But look, I am encouraged by the velocity, and there is no doubt a road map to success here: get ahead in the count.  If Liriano can command the sinker for a first pitch strike, he will absolutely get more swings and misses when he drops the slider out of the zone.

This is what we're going to be watching for tonight, people. 

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