Reason #1: Across the board, his advanced metrics in 2023 are much improved
Despite a relatively small sample size (33 2/3 innings pitched), Matthew Liberatore is putting up some of the best numbers of his entire career. Check out some areas where the southpaw has seen improvement this year (please note that Liberatore pitched 34.2 innings in St. Louis last year and 115.0 innings in Memphis):
- K/9 (Strikeouts per 9 innings pitched): The highest of his career at 12.03. This is a significant increase from last year. In Memphis, in 2022 Liberatore had a 9.08 K/9 and in St. Louis, he had just a 7.27 K/9. For reference, the two current Cardinals starting pitchers with the highest K/9 are Steven Matz and Jack Flaherty who are tied at 9.3.
- BB/9 (Walks per 9 innings pitched): The second lowest of his career at 3.21. This is a 31.23% decrease from last year in his time pitching in St. Louis. The Cardinals' Achilles heel the past couple of years has been walking batters and Liberatore has shown improved command and discipline of the strike zone.
- FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching): Check out Week 2 of my Redbird Roundup for a deeper dive into why FIP is one of the best benchmarks for pitchers. A pitcher's FIP tells us how well they perform on outcomes that they have control over (Home Runs, Hit-by-pitches, Unintentional Walks, and Strikeouts). Liberatore currently owns a 2.69 FIP (2.96 xFIP) which is far and away the best of his entire career. Last year in Memphis he had a 4.63 FIP and in St. Louis, he had a 5.02 FIP.
We can guess that Oli Marmol, John Mozeliak, and other decision-makers in St. Louis are aware of Liberatore's improvement in these key categories. The big question: when he is called back up to St. Louis will these metrics translate against Big League hitters in Big League parks?