Liriano Struggles In First Start

Franchise can't complete 5, struggled with command.

While this wasn't a devastating performance by Liriano, and in many respects was really a quite predictable outing at this juncture, it still wasn't pretty.  Fastballs and changeups dominated the afternoon, and the fastball in particular struggled to find the strike zone much of the time.  The fourth and fifth innings in particular were intriguing to watch, as he appeared to lose a little something.

I've charted Liriano's pitch selection by inning, to give you an idea of how he fared.

Fastballs (49 total, 54% selection)

Innings 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Total
Fastballs 12 9 6 13 7 47
Strikes 7 4 4 8 3 26
Hits 2 1 0 3 0 6

Innings 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Total
Cutters 1 0 0 1 0 2
Strikes 1 0 0 1 0 2
Hits 0 0 0 0 0 0

I was entirely unaware that Liriano had a cutter in his arsenal (or a curveball for that matter, as you'll see below), but Gameday insists he did.  There weren't many pitches labeled as a cutter though, so we can stick with the fastballs.

All six of Liriano's hits were given up on fastballs, which weren't registering near the mid-90's according to some reports.  Just over half of his fastballs went for strikes, and while working into deep counts and getting behind didn't help him, that once blistering pitch was quite hittable Sunday afternoon.

Breaking Balls (8 total, 9% selection)

Innings 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Total
Sliders 0 0 1 3 1 5
Strikes 0 0 0 1 1 2
Hits 0 0 0 0 0 0
Curveballs 0 0 1 2 0 3
Strikes 0 0 0 1 0 1
Hits 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 2 5 1 8

Once again, Gameday identified a pitch that I didn't know Liriano had:  a curveball.  It seems to me that both the cutter and the curveballs could have been wonky sliders, causing them to be misinterpreted.  For that reason I've combined the chart for sliders and curves.  (But then again, a couple of those pitches did look like curves, didn't they?)  At any rate, only eight of Liriano's 90 pitches were breaking balls, three of which went for strikes and none of which were turned into a hit.  At least in his first start, Rick Anderson's wish to dramatically reduce the number of sliders/breaking balls used came to fruition.

As the weeks wear on and Liriano gets stronger, I do anticipate he will begin to throw more sliders/breaking balls again, but on Sunday afternoon it's clear he was limited.  And from how effective the pitches were, I don't think the limitations hurt him too much.  The fastball wasn't locating well enough to make breaking balls any sort of bait.

Changeups (33 overall, 37% selection)

Innings 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Total
Changeups 2 4 9 9 9 33
Strikes 2 3 4 6 4 20
Hits 0 0 0 0 0 0

Game announcers called this a circle change, and based on this one appearance it did look as though Liriano was more confident with its use.  Or maybe it was just because his fastballs weren't too effective and he wasn't throwing many breaking balls.  At any rate, the change was Cisco's most effective pitch on Sunday.  Thrown for strikes 61% of the time, no changups were turned into hits, and even when it appeared hitters were waiting for it they weren't able to capitalize.

Final Sunday Thoughts

Once again, no offense, but it was fun being able to watch Liriano throw his first real game in 19 months.  He'll be a work in progress most (if not all) of 2008, so we should be prepared for many more starts that may look just like this one.  Hopefully he can start putting it together these next few weeks, and we'll be able to see some positive trends as we move into the fall.

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