Did Jeff Luhnow find a key piece to the Astros bullpen in Francisco Liriano?
When the Houston Astros traded for Francisco Liriano at the trade deadline, it wasn’t precisely the addition Astros fans wanted. While Astros fans were not too excited, the front office says potential in Liriano’s arm as a reliever. Liriano didn’t look good with the Blue Jays or early with the Astros.
Jeff Luhnow urged fans not to judge Liriano in his first few appearances. While Liriano did pitch in the bullpen earlier in his career, he has primarily been a starter in his 12-year career. Liriano has started 274 games in 314 career appearances. Liriano did not look impressive as a starter this year with a 6-5 record with a 5.88 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings.
In Liriano’s first three appearances out of the Astros bullpen, he only totaled 1 2/3 innings with a 10.80 ERA while striking out one hitter. He struggled with his command walking three hitters and getting the loss in his first two appearances. Astros fans mocked GM Jeff Luhnow’s trade to acquire Liriano calling it a desperation move.
However, Luhnow went on the Matt Thomas show and told listeners to be patient with Liriano. He will take some time to acclimate to pitching out of the bullpen. At the time of the trade, Luhnow believed that Liriano would be an impact arm out of the bullpen. He mentioned it wasn’t a move to win in August or eat up innings in September.
They acquired Liriano to win in October. Fans doubted how Liriano would suddenly become better in October when he looked terrible at the start of the month. It takes time to acclimate your arm to pitching out of the bullpen after pitching every fifth day. This was the case for Liriano, but he has looked better recently.
In his last five games, Liriano has not allowed any earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. He has allowed five walks while only striking out one hitter. He throws his fastball around 93 mph with his offspeed pitches around 85 mph, a slider and a changeup. While Liriano may not be the Andrew Miller type pitcher, he could be an upgrade to Tony Sipp in the playoffs.
With Sipp rehabbing for a September return, Liriano could have the leg up over Sipp. They have a little more than a month to decide the best playoff roster they can field on October 5th. If the Astros have an early exit in the playoffs this year, there will be plenty of second guessing. However, Astros fans should root for Liriano. We need him to become a big part of the bullpen.
***Stats and pitch speed from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs****