Francisco Liriano had another tough start last night, lasting just two inning and giving up seven runs on seven hits and two walks. His ERA and WHIP look worse than he has pitched because of his unlucky BABIP (0.326) and HR/FB (0.122). Still his real performance has been below average. He has a tRA of 5.11 and league average is in the high fours. This is disappointing after the dizzying heights of his pre-injury 2006 and solid performance last year.
The big problem is his fastball, which has been worth a staggering -21 runs below average. It in about 3 mph slower than it was in 2006 as a starter. His two secondary pitches, a slider and a changeup, are both very good. He showed a similar pattern in 2006, an average fastball and an amazing slider and change. These pitch value numbers are not luck-corrected, if the BABIP or HR/FB values on his fastball are poor he is penalized. So I wanted to check out the numbers on his fastball more directly under his control:
Fastball +--------+---------+---------+ | | Liriano | Average | +--------+---------+---------+ | Zswing | 0.590 | 0.612 | | Oswing | 0.170 | 0.241 | | Whiff | 0.047 | 0.057 | | GB/BIP | 0.371 | 0.408 | +--------+---------+---------+
There is way more than just bad luck at play here. Particularly bad is the lack of out of the zone swings, while having an almost league average in zone swing rate. A low number of out of zone swings relative to in zone swings results in batters making better contact, rarely swinging and missing, rarely swinging at balls, and rarely taking strikes.
Back when Liriano was throwing a 94mph fastball he could only muster an average fastball, so now that it is 3 mph slower it shouldn’t be a surprise that it is having such poor results. He is only 25, hopefully he gets some of the speed back on the fastball, and is better able to locate it, to get more whiffs, out of zone swings and ground balls.