Radhames Liz Looking Like Rotation Depth After a Mechanical Change

After struggling with command in the Pirates’ bullpen and being sent to Indianapolis earlier in the season, Radhames Liz made the transition back into the starting rotation, and has been nearly lights out ever since.

While there have been a couple of bumps in the road, such as Monday night’s four runs and four walks in six innings, Liz has catapulted himself back on the radar as possible pitching depth at the upper levels. This is increasingly important with the recent news that A.J. Burnett will be down for the next four weeks.

Additionally, this comes at a perfect time for the Pirates organization, as starting pitching depth has been taking a hit in the last month with the injury to Casey Sadler and the trade of Clayton Richard.

For Liz, getting back into the swing of things meant getting back to what he had success with in the Dominican Winter League that caught Pittsburgh’s eye to begin with.

“The command has been pretty good so far, since I have become a starter,” Liz said. “I guess I like being a starter more than a reliever.”

The change has also included some minor mechanical changes as well in his delivery to get back to where he was. With this, Liz admitted that there has been a great deal of work done with Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor and pitching coach Stan Kyles.

“We have been working on my mechanics,” Liz said of his work with Treanor and Kyles. “We have been working on the mechanics because I was up later with my front leg. They have been working with me and it has been much better and more powerful. I have been more consistent with my velocity.”

Liz also said that all of his pitches have been feeling good over the past month since the changes began. Those pitches include a fastball that was in between 96 and 98 MPH. It has not been rare to see the right hander hit 99 on the gun.

He also has shown a nice put away pitch with a slider that sits in the upper 80s, and he has seen much improved command with the pitch. Liz’s stuff has improved just with the command, which allows him the ability to get ahead of hitters and put them away.

“There have been some outings where the breaking ball has worked better, but it has always been my fastball that is my main pitch,” Liz said. “When the breaking ball is working good, it makes the fastball better. It is a better combination if I can throw the breaking ball for a strike and have good command and speed with my fastball.”

Outside of the July 11 start, in which he allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings, Liz has been fairly untouchable. In his other seven starts, Liz has allowed 18 hits and three earned runs in 40 innings.

In those eight starts, he has not had less than six strikeouts in any start. However, he has walked 15 hitters over the span, including two starts recently where he walked four batters per game.

While Liz might still need some help getting back into the rotation on the big league roster, his chances have increased over the past week. The Pirates traded for J.A. Happ as an immediate replacement for Burnett, and if Vance Worley clears waivers, he would most likely be the next guy up in the rotation. But Liz has emerged as an option if the Pirates run into some issues with their rotation.

In addition, he still could easily have a spot open for him in the bullpen if needed when the rosters expand in September. Despite starting being a more comfortable spot for Liz, the improved mechanics, control, and stuff put him back in the area where he could have an impact down the stretch in the bullpen.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 4, 2015 10:44 pm

    Since Morse and Rodriguez can both play first base, why is Ishikawa still occupying a roster spot? Bell, Garcia, Broxton, Hanson, Gamache – any of those guys, although a couple are raw, would be an improvement and upgrade. Even Morel, gulp, was better….

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 4, 2015 10:22 pm

    If we have to 4-5 weeks with Happ, Morton, and Locke starting every 5th day, we are in trouble. Happ showed you tonight what he is all about and has been about for the past 6 years, but we traded a decent young starting pitcher for him. Sampson would have been more competitive tonight.

    I know the Pirates won’t do this – because it would be bold and unconventional – but they need to bring up Glasnow and put Happ in the pen to replace Bastardo. DFA Bastardo….the only good thing tonight was Caminero pitching better than he has in several weeks.

    The offense disappeared again tonight – seems to happen every 3rd or 4th game. They better bring it tomorrow night.

  • Well, I’ve seen just about enough JA Happ to last me a full season…

  • For Liz to be successful if he is called up, it has to be in a starter role IMO.

    I am also sort of curious that no mention has been made regarding Chris Volstead. He leads Indy in wins, second in strikeouts, owns the lowest ERA, and the lowest WHIP. He HAS to be doing something right!

  • Would have liked to see Liz get a shot replacing AJ. But…can we at least give Happ 1 start before totally ripping him like some have?

  • Clayton Richard was DFA’d by the Cubs twice now – both after decent performances. And of course, part of the reason is the work he did in the minors with the Bucs. Any chance they sign him again? I know that he still has work to do to be really ready for MLB batters. But it seems that he was really improving and he was “this close” to be called up by the Bucs if he had another month or so down in Indy.

  • Liz should’ve been brought up. Happ is terrible and was downright awful in July.

    Oh well….

    • From a total organizational standpoint, it makes some sense to roll with Happ for a few starts at least. Sits around 4 generally, so not terrible for a back end arm.

      But more importantly, he creates depth. If you dont make a move for a low buy Happ type, you have to go with Liz and if he sees walk issues you are in a huge mess. None of the options are great, all have the chance to bust, so the depth that Happ bring at least avoids a worst case scenario.

      • Totally agree with both of you. To preserve depth, it pretty much has to be Happ until Sept. Then if things are still the same, Liz can take his spot until we see if A.J. has anything left.

      • Exactly. If Happ fails you still have Liz. If Liz fails, you’re screwed. Hard to get decent starting pitching through waivers. And if you do, you’ll most likely severely overpay as everyone knows you’re desperate.

        Of course you could look outside MLB for non-waiver trades. Hey look, Randy Wolf has the best ERA in MiLB!

        er… no thanks.

        • Small thing: I actually dont think PGH is screwed after Liz….i think its Glasnow. I just think they dont want to make that move unless they have to for multiple reasons that arent all money/service time.

      • Except that Worley would’ve done that and, probably, given you better results than Happ.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        August 4, 2015 10:51 pm

        Where do you get that Happ generally sits around 4?

        Since 2011, here are his ERAs for each season:

        – 5.35 (2011)
        – 4.76 (2012)
        – 4.45 (2013)
        – 4.22 (2014)
        – 4.64 (2015) – may not have included tonight

        • Should have specified, 4 FIP. Because i think ERA is not worth the time to use as a predictive stat. He sits over 4 FIP some years, just above a few, just below a few. He’s not a guy you love to go to, but if the options are what they are him for 2-3 games isnt worst case.

          Worst case would be Liz for 2-3, he struggles with location, and you have 0 depth behind him.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      August 4, 2015 10:46 pm

      We actually downgraded when we traded Sampson for Happ…..I still cannot believe the Pirates thought he was an adequate pick-up, given AJ’s condition…bringing Liz up would have been the smarter move…

  • Do we control Liz for next season?

    • If he is added to the 40-man, yes. He will have just over 1 year of MLB experience. So he’s not even arbitration eligible!

  • Whether AJ comes back in September or not he will be gone by next spring so Liz and Worley have a lot of motivation down the stretch. Happ will be pitching with FA in mind too so tonight’s start should be VERRRRY interesting.

    • I hope he does better vs Cubs batters than in his past. Against the Cubs active for tonight, he hasn’t fared well (SSS disclaimer here).
      http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/batvspitch/_/id/28817/ja-happ

      Can Bucs learn anything from Rizzo that would help their LH hitters mash LHP like Rizzo does? Is it more a matter of almost standing on the plate so he can reach sliders than anything else?

      • That’s a lot of it, honestly. The truth is, umpires never call the inside edge strike to left handed batters (check out yesterday’s fangraphs article), so there’s little disincentive to creeping closer to the edge. It gives you better coverage, and the holes it creates aren’t going to be called strikes.

      • I mentioned this either here or on DK’s site, but what the Cubs did to Rizzo is exactly what the Pirates *should* have done to Pedro if they actually knew how to improve hitters.

        Since dropping his hands and moving closer to the plate, Rizzo has decreased the rate of ground balls he hits by 12% and actually *increased* the number of balls he pulls. And Rizzo’s raw power is at least one full grade less than Pedro, likely more.

        You don’t beat the shift by hitting *away* from it, you beat the shift by hitting *over* it.

        • So why doesn’t Pedro just do it? Pedro seems like someone who would leave here and then hit 40 HRs consistently.

          • That’s always a tough spot for the player, I’d imagine. Essentially the complete opposite of what Hurdle seems to be wanting him to do. At what point do you go against your coach/Manager?

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