Francisco Liriano helped eliminate the Reds last postseason. Will they pay him back tonight?
Francisco Liriano’s change in approach
Francisco Liriano helped eliminate the Reds last postseason with his slider, throwing it on half of his 90 pitches. His slider netted him 14 outs and yielded only one baserunner in the NL wild-card game.
Francisco Liriano Slider
Since Start of Last Season
Since the start of last season, Liriano’s slider has been one of the best in the majors, ranking in the top 10 in most major categories. Although successful against the Reds last season with the pitch, Cincinnati is batting an MLB-best .307 against sliders this season.
The slider isn't the only pitch Liriano has leaned on this season. Liriano has increased the usage of his changeup, throwing it nearly 31 percent of the time, up from 22 percent last season.
Liriano has limited opponents to a .174 batting average while generating a 54 percent swing-and-miss rate this season when throwing the change. Last season opponents hit .273, while swinging and missing 38 percent of the time.
We could see a continuation of that trend tonight. The Reds have hit .192 against changeups this season, 22nd in the majors.
Joey Votto’s lineup change
On April 12, the Reds moved Joey Votto to second in the batting order instead of his usual third. The move has aided Votto in returning to his former MVP self.
Joey Votto by Spot in Batting Order
The Reds are 4-2 since the tweak to the lineup after going 3-7 with Votto batting third. Votto has hit three of his four home runs when batting second.
Andrew McCutchen not as valuable
Last season Andrew McCutchen became the first Pirates player to win the National League MVP award since Barry Bonds in 1992. So far this season, McCutchen has been unable to replicate last season’s success.
McCutchen’s OPS has dipped to .759 this season, which if it held, would be the lowest of his career. McCutchen’s OPS exceeded .900 in each of the previous two seasons.
Such a big dip in OPS isn’t uncommon for the reigning league MVP. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 55 players have dropped 100 points in OPS the season after winning the MVP award. Both McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera have seen such dips in the opening weeks this season.
Jay Bruce is a slow starter
Jay Bruce is batting .220 to start this season, but this hasn’t been uncommon in his career.
Bruce’s career batting average in March and April is .249, his second lowest in any month. Last season, Bruce hit .252 with a .651 OPS in April before ripping off a .288 average and .903 OPS from May to July.