2016 Blue Jays Season Review: Francisco Liriano

 Aug 5, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Francisco Liriano (45) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

By: Jay Blue and @JaysGirlEmily

Blue Jays From Away

Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.

The Blue Jays made a few deals into the waiver trade period, particularly picking up lefty Francisco Liriano on August 1. This deal, seen as a salary dump by the Pittsburgh Pirates, had the Blue Jays sending only righty Drew Hutchison to Pittsburgh for Liriano (and his $13.67 million salary) and two prospects, catcher Reese McGuire and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Liriano hadn’t been pitching all that well with Pittsburgh, amassing a 5.46 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in the National League over 113 2/3 innings, walking 5.5 batters per nine innings but striking out 9.2. Liriano made his Toronto debut on August 5 and, through four starts in August had a 3.97 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks in 22 2/3 innings, providing the club with some innings, but not particularly high-quality ones.

In September, however, Liriano made four starts and came out of the bullpen twice to total 26 2/3 innings in the month, striking out 29 and walking only six and holding batters to a .206/.250/.353 slash line. These last outings bolstered the Blue Jays’ rotation and allowed the club to rest Aaron Sanchez more down the stretch. He worked at least six innings in each start, allowed two earned runs at the most and finished his season with a 6 1/3-inning gem, giving up six hits and one walk while striking out 10.

All of that amounted to 0.7 fWAR for Liriano (to put him on the plus side for the season (thanks to -0.3 fWAR for the Pirates) in just 49 1/3 innings as a Blue Jay. He had a 2.92 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with a stellar 25.0% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate in the regular season.

Sent to the bullpen for the playoffs, Liriano finished the Wild Card game with 1 2/3 innings of work with a strikeout while he allowed two runs in 1/3 of an inning in a game against Texas.

Contract Status

Liriano is under contract for one more year at $13.67 million.

Emily Says

Francisco Liriano started the season posting a 6-11 record and a 5.46 ERA in 21 starts with the Pirates. He was a trade deadline pickup for the Blue Jays, coming to Toronto along with two prospects in exchange for Drew Hutchison. His cooperation allowed the Blue Jays to form a six-man rotation, with the goal of reducing Aaron Sanchez’s innings.

The 32-year-old was reunited with former Pittsburgh batterymate Russell Martin, making eight starts and two relief appearances for Toronto in the regular season. In four starts in August, he allowed two, five, zero and three earned runs in a total of 22.2 innings for a 3.97 ERA. He lost the first game, won the fourth and had no-decisions in the others. He walked ten, struck out twenty-three, allowed three home runs, and hit two batters.

Liriano made two relief appearances after that – on September 2nd he allowed three runs (two earned) on two hits, including a home run, without recording an out. His next outing went better, as he threw the fifth and sixth innings of a game against the Yankees and didn’t allow a run on one hit. He also had three strikeouts over the two innings.

Liriano then returned to the rotation, and made four more starts in September. To close out the year, he threw six-inning shutouts in consecutive starts. In the first of the two he only allowed three hits, in the other he allowed six and struck out ten. His September ERA was an excellent 2.03 over 26.2 innings, with six walks allowed and 29 strikeouts.

In his time with Toronto, he had a 2-2 record, a 2.92 ERA in 49.1 innings thrown, and a 1.18 WHIP. Both his ERA and K/BB ratio of 3.25 were the best among Jays’ starters. His opponent’s batting average of .205 was second best on the team, behind only Marco Estrada (third if relievers are included, as Jason Grilli would take the top spot).

Liriano wasn’t needed in the postseason rotation, and was added to the bullpen as more left-handed relief pitching was needed. He holds the dubious distinction of being the only Blue Jay reliever to allow a run in the 2016 postseason. He entered the Wild Card game with one out in the 10th, and threw 1.2 scoreless innings. He struck out one and didn’t allow a single baserunner. He was the pitcher of record when Edwin Encarnacion hit the game-winning walk-off home run, and therefore got the win.

In Game 2 of the ALDS, he entered the 8th inning with a 5-1 lead, allowed a leadoff double, a one-out walk, and then took a Carlos Gomez single off the back of the head – that allowed a runner to score. Liriano left the game, leaving the field under his own power with trainers. Roberto Osuna replaced him and allowed one of the inherited runners to score, so Liriano was charged with two earned runs.

Liriano was diagnosed with a concussion and was removed from the playoff roster. He returned to the Jays’ playoff roster on the 14th of October, but didn’t appear in another game. His postseason ERA was 9.00 in two innings, with one walk, two hits allowed, and one strikeout.

Regular Season Grades

Jay: B+
Emily: A

Postseason Grades

Jay: D
Emily: B-