Photo Credit: Charles Le Claire-USA TODAY Sports

Liriano’s Exit Leaves Some Fans a Bit Salty

Francisco Liriano did not have his command on Friday night in Tampa and exited the game in the first inning, with just one out recorded, having allowed five runs on three hits and four walks.

Liriano’s notorious Mr. Hyde incarnation emerged for the first time in a Blue Jays uniform, quickly erasing the two run lead the Jays had jumped out to, forcing the bullpen into action, and putting his club in a difficult spot.

That’s it. That was the story of the game. Or, at least, it was the story of the early part of the game (the Jays are currently in the process of chipping away at Tampa’s lead as I write this)[and they’re in the process of pissing away the lead they successfully chipped back into their column as I edit].

More accurately: it was the story of the early part of the game here in the land of people equipped to handle a 162 game baseball season without melting our keyboard with the pure hot scent of fucking stupidity.

Elsewhere things got a bit… shall we say, salty? (Oh, wait. I already did in the title. Well… whatever.)

That is, of course, because the man behind the plate during Liriano’s meltdown wasn’t Russell Martin — the former battery-mate of Liriano’s from his successful days in Pittsburgh, who often, and perhaps rightly, gets credit for helping the pitcher turn around his terrible 2016 season after he was picked up by the Jays in a mid-season trade — but backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

People genuinely lost their goddamned minds about this, acting as though John Gibbons had violated some kind of sacred bond between Martin and Liriano and knowingly put his team in a horrible position by taking away Liriano’s super magical target man.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of thinking to realize how utterly fucking ridiculous this is.

Obviously there is a mental aspect of pitching. Obviously comfort with a catcher isn’t nothing. Obviously guys are going to sequence differently. Obviously Martin is going to block balls better that Saltalamacchia, and steal away strikes better — though the latter especially is a skill that shows up over long stretches, not in one inning. Obviously Salty is a backup catcher for a reason.

Absolutely none of that whatsoever has anything to do with Liriano not being able to find the strike zone or grooving pitches the times when he did.

At the end of a start — or, better still, at the end of several starts, or at the end of a season — you might be able to sit back and look at things that took place and see some separation between how well a pitcher worked with one catcher over another. Some of it might be tangible, some of it might be luck. At the very least, what we do know is that PUTTING ANOTHER CATCHER BACK THERE IS NOT AKIN TO DROPPING A BOMB INTO A PITCHER’S LAP, YOU BLAME-DESPERATE DIPSHIT HUMPS!

Fun fact: When Liriano rediscovered his form in Pittsburgh in 2013, his ERA was a half run better in his seven starts with Tony Sanchez behind the plate than it was in his 16 with Martin catching him. And when he was really good for the Pirates in 2015, Martin was playing for the Blue Jays! *COUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHH*

EVEN MORE FUN FACT: In Liriano’s sparkling Spring Training that just ended he pitched 18 innings of Grapefruit League action. Juan Graterol caught 1.2 of those. Russell Martin caught 6.2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught 9.2.

Yet the way you hear some people talk about it, Martin magical beast willing Liriano to throw filthy strikes back there, or some kind of puppet master. The dumbs were so fast to point the finger at Saltalamacchia and at Gibbons for putting him in there that this must be what they think. Liriano has no agency! His success or failure is based only on whether or not the magic man is behind the plate. And John Gibbons must be a complete moron for failing to see it.

No! Bless John Gibbons for not falling for this utter, utter superstitious absurdity.

The thing about Martin potentially unlocking something in Liriano that he’d lost in his rough 2016 in Pittsburgh was never about magic. Give Russell a little more credit. Much of it is about adjustments. About seeing things in his delivery or where he toes the rubber or how he can better attack hitters. And about working with him — not just in-game, but on game day and in the overall.

Again, this isn’t to say that in-game stuff doesn’t matter. Being able to help Liriano make an adjustment mid-inning might be something Martin can do a little better than Salty. The ability to say the right thing to get him refocused could absolutely be something Martin can do better than Salty, and maybe — maybe — he could have helped Liriano pull himself out of the fire better than Salty did, or the visit from Pete Walker was able to. It’s just…

It’s just… I get that you’re mad, but could you maybe take a second and not be so fucking stupid?

Think about how the pitcher-catcher relationship actually works. Think about how it goes beyond just what you see on the field, how it isn’t magic, and how all kinds of he granular and intangible things might make one catcher a better receiver for a given pitcher — or maybe even all pitchers — over the course of time. Then think about how that stuff, unless you’re J.P. Arencibia failing to catch a knuckleball, isn’t going to explode into clusterfuck the minute the wrong guy is wearing the goddamn gear. Aaaaand think about how — as much as I hate to fucking break it to you — backup catchers do have to play sometimes.

Fans will universally agree with that statement riiiiiight up to the point where “sometimes” becomes “tonight.” And when things go badly, oh boy do the hindsight clowns try real fucking hard to come out. But the thing is: they’ve got nothing on this one. Absolutely nothing.

Francisco Liriano didn’t have his command on Friday night in Tampa. That’s the story.

  • PJ_Lowry

    You’re living in la la land if you think confidence doesn’t help… Gibbons couldn’t give Liriano a chance to get 2017 off to a good start. Then again, all those starts Navarro took for Estrada and Thole took for Dicky were just coincidences in the schedule? You’re a fucking idiot for thinking this is all on Liriano. A manager’s job is to do what he can to help his people win, and benching his best catcher when he’s not injured is total bullshit. We don’t pay Martin 20 million to ride the pine when his guy is getting his ass handed to him.

      • PJ_Lowry

        You’re talking out of both ends of your damn mouth. You state that yes a catcher does make a difference, there is a reason why Martin is one of the highest paid catchers in MLB. Then you’re trying to pin this all on the pitcher when there is plenty of blame to go around. The Jays already had a day off… and they have another coming Monday… so what is the reason to bench Martin? That is total bullshit, and Liriano could have used his guy but Gibby is a fucking moron.

          • CashGameND

            So Martin deserves 0 credit for lirianos turn around last season? And just in general for being known as a great catcher that can get more out of pitchers then others

          • The Humungus

            Whether he deserves credit or not is not the issue. Liriano threw to Salty all spring, and Russell was right there with Pete Walker to catch any issues.

            Sometimes guys just can’t find the zone, man. Did you miss the AJ Burnett Era? He still holds a record for most walks given up in a no-hitter.

          • Kyball


            Obviously Martin deserves credit for helping with Liriano’s turn around. Catchers are important and can have a positive influence on pitchers.
            But when a pitcher is missing the strike zone by as much and as frequently as Liriano was yesterday, there isn’t really much a catcher can do.
            The catcher doesn’t control the pitcher’s arm.
            Look at this pitch chart and tell me that somehow Martin would have made a difference.
            Martin is a better at framing pitches than Saltalamacchia, so maybe if Martin was behind the plate, 3 of those pitches could have been called for strikes. But fuck man, Liriano was all over the place.
            That’s on Liriano, not the catcher. If you think otherwise, you’re completely delusional.

        • The Humungus

          The reason to sit Martin is that he’s a fucking 34 year old catcher coming off knee surgery playing on awful goddamned turf for 91 games this year (by the schedule) that you’re paying $20M to because, news flash, he’s pretty good.

          You sit that guy against the fifth starter. Period. His “normal” days off will likely always fall against the worst pitchers. Partly because he needs regular days off. His best offensive season since 2007, he played 111 games, but was a 5.5 WAR player.

          Salty is hot piss. I’d rather that guy hitting against Matt Andriese than Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.

          Don’t be dumb.

        • Player to Be Named Later

          To add to The Humungus’s post, Martin also had his throwing hand absolutely fucking smashed by a foul ball in the previous game. It was a good day to give him the night off. Could Martin have stolen a strike or two in that inning that Salty didn’t? Sure. Maybe. But that would not have saved the day. That was a mound meltdown. The guy couldn’t find the zone. End of.

        • fred2

          No catcher is the reason why a pitcher can’t even get two outs in the first inning. Liriano was throwing pitches about two feet outside the zone. No issue of ‘confidence’ does that, especially with a catcher who caught most of your spring training innings.

          To blame Liriano’s meltdown on pitching to Saltalamacchia is like a taxi driving blaming driving a different car from usual for driving into a tree. You might not drive quite the same in a new car, but you should still be able to keep the car on the road rather than plowing into the bushes.

        • MetalManic

          “so what is the reason to bench Martin?”

          His hand may be a bit tender after getting creamed by a foul tip the previous game. Then again, I suppose that 20 million/yr. exempts him from being a human vulnerable to woes and pains.

          BTW, chill with the hostility.

  • lukewarmwater

    Wow things could get interesting in here in a hurry. It appears there won’t be too many sit around the camp fire cooking marshmallow holding hands and singing. Yep I got a feeling that the postings in here will be old school with guys sliding with the cleats up going into second.
    When there are games like tonight, hell the postings in here will be more entertaining.

  • lukewarmwater

    Either move Tampa with their 9,000 fans or build an actual ball park instead of that ugly, band box where high, high balls bang, crash and bong into cat walks, beams and other strange objects. I mean one of the weirdest sights is to see some poor outfielder looking up into the roof wondering if David Copperfield just did a disappearing act with that old raw hide. Makes for farcical baseball. Not sure why Tampa has simply owned the Jays especially in this crap so called ball park, but they truly do.

  • CashGameND

    As much as people might be over reacting on social media (which is to be expected for every possible decision that might be scrutinized because… Social media)

    But this article is just as much an over reaction in the other direction. Liriano did have success in pit with Martin, even if as you’ve pointed out he found success with others. He struggled terribly last season and was successful when paired with Martin. So I don’t think it’s that awful as a blue Jays fan to have expected him starting the season pitching to Martin to get in a groove to start his season. No need to over react, just a simple observation can be made sometimes..

  • drunk man walking

    There was a reason why the Pirates traded Liriano for salary relief, and we have just seen a glimpse of that today. We have spent 9 months now chortling about how they got fleeced, and wondering how they could be so dumb. This is most likely just a one off, but the next start or two will be watched more closely, because Liriano is well Liriano, and the numbers…his numbers…do not tell a convincing story. And what Stoeten has said here is that there are numbers and then there is other stuff which make the numbers less convincing, and the Liriano Jays stuff is about how coaching type stuff trumps numbers. I certainly agree that this can be true, and think, in this instance that it is, but the spectre has arisen of the Liriano that cannot throw strikes.

    • Warren_

      Anyone who thinks Liriano “can’t” throw strikes is an idiot.
      He was #1 in strikeouts in spring training, across ALL teams. 18 innings, 29 strikeouts, 4 runs. Nobody else came close to this. (Lance McCullers, who some people have in the Cy Young conversation this year) came close in strikeout rates but also allowed 13 runs.

      • jerjapan

        Please look up the meaning of small sample size before bringing up spring training stats. Also, striking batters out and not walking batters or missing your location – aka, not throwing strikes – are not the same thing. Don’t toss the word idiot around before you make sure you aren’t talking about yourself.

          • jerjapan

            I’m bringing up spring training stats because the previous poster did. I’m well aware of Liriano’s career. Please actually read the thread and understand the points before commenting – the comment that ignited this discussion was ‘the spectre has arisen of the Liriano that cannot throw strikes’, which is clear reference to his tenure in Pittsburgh last year, and appears a genuine, discussion-provoking comment.

            Why are people on this site so opposed to that?

          • drunk man walking

            Way late to this , and my original point was that Liriano has put up 5 seasons in which he has a BB/9 > 4 and has been pretty bad in all of them (WAR <1). In the rest he has a BB/9 <4 and has been pretty good to even better than pretty good.

    • Mose

      Howell was atrocious…

      I’m guessing he will be this years Drew Storen, who will need to prove he can be effective in low leverage situations before getting the nod in a tight game…

      If he begins throwing strikes again, I’m afraid he’ll hit the DL with whiplash from watching MLB hitters barrel up his 84 mph junk…