Thursday, September 26, 2013

Liriano Must Start the Wild Card Game Against the Reds

This weekend, the Pirates and the Reds play the final three games of the 2013 regular season against each other.  Pittsburgh enters with a 1 game lead over the Reds, but it all comes down to who wins 2 out of 3 this weekend.  If the Reds win 2 of 3, they will be tied with the Pirates at 92-70, but win the tiebreaker because of winning the season series at 10 games to 9.

A part of me would be tempted to pitch Francisco Liriano on 4 days rest on Sunday if the Pirates needed to win that final game.  Pittsburgh winning would bring the Wild Card game to Pittsburgh and PNC Park, where the long, long, long-suffering fanbase would have at least one chance to see playoff baseball.  There's no guarantee in the Wild Card game that the home team wins it, especially since both road teams won the game last year.  Having a home game would really cement this season as a huge success for the Pirates and a reward for their fans.

But knowing that the Pirates will be in the Wild Card game, regardless of winning 2 of 3 this weekend or not, it is imperative that Liriano be ready for the game against the Reds on Tuesday (no matter which city it's in).

Francisco Liriano has held lefties this season to a triple slash line of .130 AVG/.175 OBP/.146 SLG (.151 wOBA).  Essentially, Liriano has made lefties as a collective hit like they are pitchers.

And as luck would have it, the Cincinnati Reds three best players (Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto) are all lefties.  Choo, in particular, is quite anemic against left handed pitching.  Here's the LHP/RHP splits for each of these three players, in terms of OPS:

Choo -- 615/1019
Bruce -- 738/846
Votto -- 828/976

Choo turns into Clint Barmes against LH pitching, Bruce becomes an average hitter, and Votto becomes mortal.  Additionally, the Reds two other main hitters, Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier, have very little split between LHP/RHP so Liriano won't be affected much by them.

Phillips -- 746/691
Frazier -- 787/690

In fact, Hurdle should deviate entirely from his usual manner of starter-setup-closer and go with Liriano for 6-7 innings, then LHP Justin Wilson for 1-2, and Tony Watson for the remaining 1-2 innings.  Choo should never see a right-handed pitcher in the Wild Card game.  Keeping him off the bases is a huge plus; it may even force Dusty Baker to keep him on the bench in favor of Derrick Robinson.

The Pirates have four pitchers that I feel very comfortable turning to in the playoffs for a "real" series, especially Gerrit Cole at this point, but there's only one I want to see against the left-leaning Reds on Tuesday night.

1 comment:

  1. Agree, since Liriano had the best OPS against vs. lefties....of all time.

    Hurdle absolutely won't NOT roll out his righty closer though, hell or high water, if the Pirates have a one run lead in the ninth with Votto/Bruce due up. Not in his DNA.