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Why are so many teams interested in Rick Porcello?

Mar 21, 2013, 11:17 AM EDT

rick porcello getty Getty Images

This month has been filled with reports about teams trying to trade for Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello and as a response to that some prominent media members have even taken to saying Detroit would be making a big mistake by trading him.

Young starting pitching is always in demand and Porcello is a 24-year-old former first-round pick who’s 6-foot-5 and throws hard, but his actual performance has been mediocre at best.

Last season among the 100 pitchers to make at least 25 starts Porcello ranked 81st in ERA (4.59), 93rd in strikeouts per nine innings (5.5), and 99th in opponents’ batting average (.310). And those underwhelming numbers are very much in line with the rest of his career, which includes a 4.55 ERA, 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings, and a .290 opponents’ batting average in 120 total starts spread over four seasons.

Obviously he’s still young enough to improve, but at no point in the minors or the majors has Porcello shown any kind of ability to miss bats and because of that he’s given up a ton of hits and a ton of runs. He’s also already expensive despite being just 24 and not performing very well, making $5.1 million this season with raises due via arbitration in 2014 and 2015.

I just don’t get it.

  1. historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    When you said “prominent media members,” I was sure you were kissing Craig’s butt. lol

    I am also at a loss why people value Porcello so much. He’s not the worst out there, but he’s not worth fighting over. He could be an asset to some teams… But, hey, as long as people are interested, I hope we use him to make a good trade.

    Thank you for our daily dose of Tigers awesomeness, Aaron. <3

  2. Old Gator - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Possible answer to question posed by headline: because he’s not Kyle Lhose?

    • Old Gator - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      Lohse.

      Edit function!
      Edit function!
      EDIT FUNCTION!

      • zzalapski - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        “Edit function? What for?” – Jhonny Peralta

      • Old Gator - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:42 AM

        Point, set, match.

  3. proudlycanadian - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Obviously, teams think that he will perform much better if he had players behind him who have much better range that the fielding challenged stiffs employed by the Tigers. He is not a strikeout pitcher and will do much better with above average glove men behind him.

    • novanation33 - Mar 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Good point. I’m sure he would benefit from having a much better defense around him. That infield is pretty miserable defensively. Not exactly what you want with a sinkerball pitcher on the mound.

  4. spudchukar - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    With you 100% here Aaron. Was wondering the same thing the past few days when rumors of multiple teams’ interest. Sure hope the Cards don’t do anything stupid, like trade any of their young talent. I know St. Louis is always enamored with power sinker types, but I’d rather see them resign Lohse, or pursue Norris or Harrel if they insist they need starter help.

    Plus, on at least one occasion, Detroit has demoted him to AAA, since his breakout rookie season.

    I don’t get it either.

  5. capone2510 - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    It’s well known that he is not a power pitcher. His strength is as a ground ball pitcher, and he’s had the horrible Tiger defense behind him. Solid back of the rotation guy for any team that has a sound defensive infield.

    • Detroit Michael - Mar 21, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      Plus guys who pitch 190 IP usually are more valuable than guys who pitch 70 IP, so other teams are hoping the Tigers will trade Porcello for a reliever.

  6. thon - Mar 21, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    The kid has been learning on the jobs in the bigs. Over the next few years you’ll see him consolidate his skills and really become a good SP. His velocity was up last year and this year he’s made over his approach, adding a curve and ditching the slider. The comments from Tigers camp are hardly fluff. Look for K’s to go up and E.R.A. down. As for BAA… hello Tigers defense. Rough place to be a groundball pitcher.

  7. dracko19 - Mar 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    The important stats are trending upwards. I think he had the highest GB rate of any starting pitcher last year. Go find a cybermetric nerd and ask them why he’s so much in demand. They know.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 21, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      Y’all know Aaron is the “cybermetric” nerd of this group of writers, right?

  8. novanation33 - Mar 21, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    I went to high school with Rick. He was one of the best prospects in the country at the time (only fell in the draft because Boras was his agent and it scared teams away). He threw 93-95 in HS and even touched 97 at times; also showed a good breaking ball. I remember people drawing comparisons to Josh Beckett. He had that type of arsenal.

    That’s why I could never understand why Detroit turned him into a sinkerball pitcher; pitching to contact. He always had the stuff to miss bats. But now he throws a 91-92 MPH sinker nearly 70% of the time. I think he would be better off throwing his 4-seamer more. If a guy can throw a 95-98 MPH 4-seamer I don’t think you mess with that.

    Here’s his Perfect Game profile from HS. “Big mid 90s guy who just keeps getting better and better. Aflac All American. 94-98 at WWBA Jupiter”.

    http://www.perfectgame.org/Players/Playerprofile.aspx?ID=46585

  9. wlschneider09 - Mar 21, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I’m not sure what a “cybermetric nerd” is, but I suspect most folks in the Sabr crowd would look at Porcello’s K rates and run the other way. He really doesn’t have swing and miss stuff, and seems unlikely to suddenly develop it after five years of “on the job” training. What you see is what you get at this point, a prototypical Twins starter (and I don’t mean that in a good way).

    Porello is illustrative of a common myth, the concept that reaching the majors early guarantees huge improvement down the road. Sometimes that 20 year old is already everything that they will ever be (say hello Jeremy Bonderman).

    • paperlions - Mar 21, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      I’d look at this age, durability, .344 BABIP thanks to horrible defense, good control, increasing K rate, and excellent GB rate and conclude he could be a solid mid-rotation starter soon. I think a lot of teams thought they might be able to get an under-valued resource….but sooooo many teams saw the same thing that they made a play for him….and that demand alone increased his value.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 21, 2013 at 1:23 PM

        There’s definitely stuff to like such as Age, GB%, BB% and the fact he’s under (arbitration) control for two years. However, some Tiger fans have been talking to the crazy Yankee fans about trade proposals, because the one mentioning Porcello + a reliever + two prospects for Profar are certifiable.

      • paperlions - Mar 21, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        Yep, there is no way a player like Porcello could be the center piece for Profar….Porcello + Castellanos doesn’t even start to get there…..mid-rotation starters and good (but not great) bats that are defensively restricted to a corner position are simply not rare commodities (though, they are nice one’s to have)….in contrast, a SS with plus plus offensive potential and plus defense is super rare and super valuable.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        church, that was one dude, and I called him on that. I’m a homer, but you gotta be reasonable about these things.

        Plus, I thought it was common knowledge that 2B was one of DD’s concerns (more so than outfield).

      • historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        Oh, wait, that didn’t make sense. I was confusing that with another comment and answering both. Dangit! Not my week.

      • paperlions - Mar 21, 2013 at 2:16 PM

        Made sense to me.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        No, it didn’t. I meant that DD does not want to dismantle his up-and-coming outfield, which he is happy with, when his 2B and SS’s contracts end soon. There will be less demand for Peralta, but Infante could move on and DD might even be able to upgrade (making keeping Peralta less troublesome). I was still answering that comment from yesterday, I guess…

  10. tcb2nyc - Mar 21, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Thank you for this post! A few weeks back when I (as a Rangers fan) suggested that Porcello was pretty spare and would just be holding a rotation spot down for a month or so while Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz got healthy in Texas, several Tiger fans jumped on me. I was told he would be the third starter in the Texas rotation, or some nonsense.

    There were suggestions that Jurickson Profar (the top prospect in all of baseball) should be traded for Porcello. Insanity.

    Based on his contract, this strikes me as purely a contract dump. They realized they overpayed him and might trade him for a bag of balls just to get rid of him.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 21, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Well, I don’t think he’s that bad — he’s just not a fit for our team and the strengths we have. I was one of the people who disagreed with you before (not b/c I thought we could get Profar for him) — but because your suggestion that he could be had that cheaply for a short-term fill was not reasonable. As you can see, there is interest in him, and the Tigers can use him for a decent exchange then (but, again, not for someone like Profar — and we aren’t going all out for an ss right now anyway). They don’t have to give him away, and it would be dumb to do so. I stand by that opinion.

      • tcb2nyc - Mar 22, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        That’s fine. But, the stats show that, well, maybe he is that bad. 81st out of 100 pitchers in the league in ERA. 93rd out of 100 in K’s per 9. And 99th (almost dead last!) in opponents batting average. You said you dont think he’s that bad, but he is. He’s pretty damn bad. Statistically speaking, he’s the second worst starting pitcher in the bigs according to opponents average.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 22, 2013 at 4:23 PM

        I think he could do better if he was with a team that better suited his talents. Another team with better defensive abilities might work for him. K/9 would be less important for them to win then, for example.

  11. spudchukar - Mar 21, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    I understand some interest in Porcello, just not the kind of return the Tigers are looking for.

  12. xdter - Mar 21, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    The answer is in the numbers: with 5 pitcher rotations and 30 teams, there should be 150 pitchers with 25+ starts, not 100.

    All arguments aside about the possibility of Porcello improving, at his current level of execution he’s already better than the current 4th or 5th starter for a lot of teams.

  13. xjokerz - Mar 21, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    hes 24…never injured…great groundball pitcher, you cant look at his ERA and strictly judge him on that, not as if you would know that… the Tigers infield Defense is horrid thus resulting in alot of ground balls not turned into outs and leading to ER’s

    put him on a team like the Padres, and he would be terrific

  14. Minoring In Baseball - Mar 21, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    Porcello is a much better pitcher than his stats show. No, he’s not a strike-out guys like Max and JV, however if the Tigers had a better infield, many of those ground balls he throws wouldn’t get through. Peralta and Infante will make more of those plays this season, and he’s been solid all spring, so I expect the Tigers to get good production out of him if he stays. They’ve offered him in trades, but they won’t give him up for nothing, so some teams have backed off.

    http://minoringinbaseball.com/

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