There has been a lot of talk about Liriano being inefficient, and this is commonly cited as a reason why he isn't in the upper tier of starting pitchers.
The first problem with this argument, is that Liriano isn't really that inefficient. He is solidly in the top half of the league when it comes to pitches per inning. I posted this on a thread, but here is a list (not a complete list) of pitchers who are less inefficient than Liriano.
That's a pretty good list of pitchers. Noone would dare say that Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jiminez, and Josh Johnson aren't "aces" because of their inefficiency, would they?
The only reason why he has the label of a guy who doesn't pitch into games, is because Gardy is very strict with pitch counts. This SHOULD NOT be held against Liriano. This is the same for all pitchers on the staff.
Even when we take into account his innings pitched, he is still really close to many of the "aces" of the league. Sometimes when we look at innings pitched, we forget that the difference between 6.3 IP and 6.7 IP is just one out. So I converted all qualified pitcher's IP/GS to number of outs. Liriano, on average got 19 outs per start.
Here is a list of qualified pitchers averaged 19 outs per start: (this, unlike the first list, IS complete)
Only one guy that most would call an "ace," but some very good pitchers on that list. What about the guys who got one more out than Liriano?
Hard to argue with that list. Some of the very best pitchers in the league, Cy Young winners, staff aces. Also, R.A. Dickey!
So is that what's keeping Liriano from "ace" status? One out?