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Has Rick Porcello turned a corner?

Jun 15, 2013, 10:45 AM EDT

Rick Porcello Getty Getty Images

Rick Porcello had to battle just to keep his rotation spot this spring, but he’s currently showing some signs of a breakthrough.

Porcello allowed three hits and no walks over seven scoreless innings last night in a 3-0 victory over the Twins. While he still holds a mediocre 4.37 ERA for the year, he has a 2.84 ERA and 56/10 K/BB ratio in 57 innings over his last nine starts.

As Neil Weinberg of New English D points out, Porcello’s success goes well beyond ERA. The 24-year-old currently has career-bests in strikeout rate (7.59 K/9), walk rate (1.59 BB/9) and ground ball rate (56 percent). It makes for a pretty valuable combination.

He’s striking out more than 7 batters per 9, walking fewer than 2 batters per 9 and has a groundball rate above 50%. From 2000-2012, here is the list of pitchers who have finished a season with that mix: Halladay (4x), Carpenter (3x), and Hamels (1x). In 2013, the pitchers on that list are Felix Hernandez, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello. That is some excellent company.

If we push the limits farther, to 7.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and 55% GB (which Porcello has) the list of pitchers since 2000 to accomplish that feat drops to zero. Nobody. We don’t have groundball data from before the early 2000s, so I can’t tell you how rare this is in MLB history, but since the data became available, it’s never been done.

Very interesting. While it’s easy to write this off as a hot streak given Porcello’s past results, it’s important to note that he has altered his pitching mix, adding in more curveballs and changeups than ever before. If he has truly taken a step forward as a pitcher, the Tigers’ rotation could be more dangerous than we already thought.

  1. detroitr1 - Jun 15, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    He debuted the curveball in spring training and posted similar results. Hitters can’t look for his fastball with his new off-speed/breaking pitches. If Porcello finishes the season like this, it is worth noting that Dave Dombrowski was shopping Rick for basically SS prospects or bullpen arms. Scouts should have been able to pick up on his new pitch selection even though his career numbers were very mediocre.

    The standings also reflect that the bullpen is equally dangerous…if we just had a pedestrian closer, the Tigers Win total would more likely resemble Boston or maybe St. Louis.

  2. dracko19 - Jun 15, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Porcello is a top 10 pitcher in all of baseball this season. Go look up SIERA on Fangraphs. He has been sabotaged by his defense in a couple starts

    • igbomb - Jun 15, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      That isn’t what SIERA is telling us. It just tells us that his peripherals suggest tat he may be a top ten pitcher going forward. He has legitimately gotten his rear kicked in a couple starts with a bunch of bad luck to top it off. But the future is bright.

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