Even though the Baltimore Orioles have struggled mightily against left-handed pitching this season, posting the worst wRC+ of any team in the American League, and even though Marcus Stroman has allowed 18 runs in 23 innings this year against them, the Toronto Blue Jays have announced that they will have Stroman, not Francisco Liriano, start tomorrow’s win-and-you’re-in game at Rogers Centre.
This is OK.
I thought Liriano should get the nod because of the platoon splits, and because he’s pitched so well lately. And if you don’t want to parse them the numbers above look a little damning, but that doesn’t mean there was no reason to have gone the other way. Not every decision in a different direction than you thought made most sense is necessarily egregious!
There are certainly reasons for choosing Stroman over Liriano. For one, as much as Liriano has sparkled over his last few starts, he’s still had a bit of a trash season, and is erratic — like Ubaldo Jimenez (who the Orioles won’t be starting either, as they’ve decided to go with Chris Tillman), you just don’t feel like you know what you’re going to get each time Liriano takes the hill. Stroman is much more Gibbons’ guy, and maybe the team’s guy, too. Not that things like that should matter so much in the face of compelling statistical data, but is that what we’re dealing with here?
Our friend Drew points out that Stroman’s numbers are a bit warped from having started twice against Baltimore in a ten day span during his worst stretch of the season. Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that Liriano will be available to pitch out of the bullpen, meaning that John Gibbons’ hook will likely be mighty quick if Stroman runs into trouble — or the fact that the vast majority of the damage against Stroman has come when he’s been going through an opponent’s batting order for a third or fourth time (he has a 3.17 ERA the first two times through the order, and a 6.92 mark the third time and beyond, including 15 of his 21 home runs allowed).
Surely Stroman will only be asked to go through the order a couple times, meaning those of us who have been pining for Liriano will probably see him for just as long as we would have if he’d been asked to start. We were probably going to see both of them anyway, so this is really mostly about order.
Marco Estrada will also be available to pitch, if needed, and there will be some extra bodies — like Dalton Pompey’s — on the bench, compared to when we last saw this team constrained by a 25-man roster, but let’s hope to hell that isn’t necessary. Yes, it’s a chance for John Gibbons to really flex his tactical muscle, which… is… kinda terrifying, innit?
But as odd as the Stroman-over-Liriano thing is, it’s surely not as bad as it seems. Shit, last year Stroman was in line to pitch Game Seven of the ALCS over David Price, and we were fine with that. So… let’s not get too nutty with any of this. Let’s also, y’know, FUCKIN’ DO IT!