Last night Liriano struggled a bit -- but those struggles merely highlight why he's having a better year than you'd think based on a glance at his superficial numbers.

Sure, he loaded the bases three times. But do you remember how he gave up his only run? On a squib-shot off the end of the bat of Pierzynski that went foul down the third baseline, spinning wildly to the left, which somehow managed to take an abrupt right turn and die in the grass in fair territory.

In other cases, the bases got loaded up when Delmon Young dropped a line drive that was basically right at him and Valencia made a bad throw to first on an attempted sacrifice bunt. How did he handle that one? By inducing an easy grounder back to himself which he threw home for a double play -- but Mauer didn't throw to first. So how did he handle that? By striking out Konerko and Quentin in impressive fashion to escape the inning unscathed.

It'd be easy for Liriano to fail in these situations, when his teammates aren't giving him any help. But it's a sign of a good, mature pitcher who can overcome that sort of adversity. He may not have racked up the strikeouts or gone deep into the game, but he showed what can only be called "grit."

You may not be impressed by his 3.26 ERA, but what about his league-leading 2.14 FIP? Here's an awesome little list of the league leaders in FIP over the last ten years:

  • 2009: Zack Greinke (2.33)*
  • 2008: Tim Lincecum (2.59)*
  • 2007: Jake Peavy (2.84)*
  • 2006: Johan Santana (3.04)*
  • 2005: Johan Santana (2.80)
  • 2004: Randy Johnson (2.30)
  • 2003: Pedro Martinez (2.21)
  • 2002: Pedro Martinez (2.24)
  • 2001: Randy Johnson (2.22)*
  • 2000: Pedro Martinez (2.17)*

* Cy Young Award winners

So ... yeah. Leading the league in FIP tends to indicate that you're a great pitcher having a great season.

And I think it's worth pointing out that Liriano's FIP is lower than all of those.

Francisco Liriano is one of the best pitchers in the league this season; if his defense would give him any sort of support (his league-high .349 BABIP indicates that they're not), he'd have a lower ERA and would be able to pitch deeper into games, which would convince people that he's actually doing well.

But you don't need that to be convinced, do you?

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13 August 2010