Baseball’s Best Starting Pitching Trios

liriano cole burnett

*Apologies for the lack of content as of late — I have recently started an internship at Baseball Info Solutions. Coverage here may be slow this summer, but we’ll try to update the site and our Twitter as much as possible.

If you paid any kind of attention to the Pirates-Mets series this weekend, you’ll know the team from Pittsburgh is in very good hands with the powerful arms at the top of their rotation. Yes, New York’s offense has struggled and featured a depleted lineup by Sunday, but the tone was set by Gerrit Cole on Friday, A.J. Burnett on Saturday, and Francisco Liriano on Sunday:

Cole has exhibited his ace potential all season to this point. Burnett has been better in his return to the Steel City than anyone could have possibly expected. Liriano shook off a couple of difficult starts, while still showing off some of the impressive peripheral numbers that made him successful in 2013 and 2014.

All told, this has been one of the best starting pitching trios in Major League Baseball through the first seven weeks of the season.

Let’s take a look…

Continue reading “Baseball’s Best Starting Pitching Trios”

How Every Pirates Starter Gets a Ground Ball

aj burnett francisco liriano

By now, everyone knows the Pirates have placed an emphasis on getting ground balls from their pitchers. They’ve led the league in ground ball rate two consecutive seasons, featuring a staff full of above-average worm killers.

But how exactly do they induce these ground balls? Which pitches and in which locations give them an edge? Here’s a look at what the (projected) starting five did in 2014 — whether it be a groundout, ground into double play, or ground ball single; split by batter handedness (LHH on the left; RHH on the right)…

Francisco Liriano

francisco liriano ground ball pitcher

Two Seam 37%
Change 30%
Slider 25%
Four Seam 8%

When Liriano’s not making batters whiff, he’s making them put the ball on the turf. He loves his changeup (red dots) and slider (purple) for whiffs and grounders alike, while his two seam fastball/sinker (blue) is also particularly effective. There’s a ton of action low and away to right-handed batters; all of his stuff works down there, like this sinker that runs away from Peter Bourjos:

francisco liriano two seam

Continue reading “How Every Pirates Starter Gets a Ground Ball”

Pirates Grapefruit Report: Week 3

mckechnie field

We’re reaching the very dull phase of spring training, where players and fans alike are wishing for real games that count. Alas, here’s what happened in the Grapefruit League over the past week, in case you were busy watching college basketball…

Tuesday, 3/17 – Astros 13, Pirates 7

Jeff Locke obliterated for six runs in three innings. The offense got going for seven runs — their best since the Grapefruit opener — but it obviously wasn’t enough. Neil Walker went deep to the right-center boardwalk.

walk0001

Continue reading “Pirates Grapefruit Report: Week 3″

How Francisco Liriano gets his whiffs

francisco liriano

You’ve probably seen this stat before (considering the number of times we’ve posted it), but it’s worth repeating…

Highest Percentage of Swinging Strikes 2013-2014 (min. 200 innings):

Francisco Liriano 13.4%
Clayton Kershaw 12.6%
Tyson Ross 12.5%
Cole Hamels 12.0%
Yu Darvish 11.9%
Chris Sale 11.8%
Max Scherzer 11.7%
Corey Kluber 11.3%
Felix Hernandez 11.3%
Anibal Sanchez 11.1%
Madison Bumgarner 11.1%
Jose Fernandez 11.0%
Zack Greinke 11.0%
Stephen Strasburg 10.9%

Liriano heads an impressive list of baseball’s best pitchers, this in terms of missing bats. It’s no secret he has filthy stuff. But it’s interesting — no pitcher the last two seasons has thrown a lower percentage of pitches in the strike zone (Jeff Locke was a close third). How does he get so many batters to chase?

Continue reading “How Francisco Liriano gets his whiffs”

Painting the Black: On Pirates’ Pitchers, Framing Catchers & An Expanding Strike Zone

russell martin pitch framing

When writing today’s Opening Day countdown preview for Vance Worley, I was reminded of his effectiveness in 2014: sharp control, low walk rate, and a propensity for backwards K’s.

Painting the black and collecting called strikes seemed to be a big part of Worley’s game. Upon further review, the entire Pirates’ rotation was above-average in that area:

pirates called strikes 2014

My next thought was that this success could be attributed to 1) the expanding strike zone in Major League Baseball, and/or 2) the acclaimed pitch-framing skills of then-Pirate Russell Martin and Chris Stewart.

“But my goal is not to steal strikes, it’s to keep strikes strikes. I don’t want to lose strikes. The key is trying to fight against what the ball is naturally wanting you to do.” – Russell Martin

Continue reading “Painting the Black: On Pirates’ Pitchers, Framing Catchers & An Expanding Strike Zone”