I think over the last month or so it has become pretty obvious who the Pirates should have out on the mound if they end up in the wildcard playoff game come October.
The popular consensus throughout the year had been A.J. Burnett, which I fully understand, but no longer agree with. Burnett is a spark plug--he's got the intensity, determination, and skill set to go out there and get the job done; however, I think there is someone in our rotation who is currently a better option.
Francisco Liriano has been a show stopper since his first start as a Pittsburgh Pirate, and short of the collapse at Coors Field a couple weeks ago he has been phenomenal. He's averaging 9.4 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, and has carried an ERA of 2.53 over 19 starts--leading him to a record of 14-5.
I know Burnett is a product of not getting the necessary run support when he pitches, but it's a tired argument when he has given up at least 4 runs in his last 3 starts. There is the argument that Burnett has more playoff experience--which he clearly does. But the wildcard playoff isn't like any of the other playoff series. It's win-or-go-home.
The last three "losing streaks" we've experienced have ended with Liriano completely shutting down the other team. Additionally, he is going deep into games, averaging 6.4 IP per start. That might not sound great, it might be what you expect to get out of your starters, but two of those starts were complete games, and the comparable IP per start from the other four starters go as follows: Burnett- 6.3, Locke- 5.8, Cole- 6, and Morton- 5.7 (These numbers were calculated by taking Innings Pitched/Games Started).
I'm looking forward to feedback, but I am failing to see how Liriano would not have earned the right to start the game if we do end up in the wildcard playoff.