Monday, November 5, 2012

The Future of Rick Porcello

Is Rick Porcello finally going have the breakout season that his underlying numbers and reputation seem hint at? I know many are disappointed with his production in the surface stats including myself, but I've been intrigued with him recently given his reputation as a top prospect and extremely aggressive promotion through the minors. There has been plenty of talk about the Tigers messing him up by moving him so quickly (straight from A+ to the majors?!), but I believe it's difficult to evaluate his career fairly at this juncture, considering that most HS prospects do not make the majors full time until their age 22 season at the earliest, making this the equivalent of a young rookie season. I am simply attempting to provide as neutral an evaluation as possible based his number to this point in his major league career. Please let me know what you think. He has increased K/9, decreased BB/9, and decreased HR/9 every year of his career, with career bests in all three categories this season, yet his ERA still over 4.50. First year with new pitching coach, higher % of CH thrown gives legitimate weapon against LH hitters. After throwing upper 90’s in HS, velocity has disappeared in pro ball, with an average FB velocity of just 91.3, including a low of 90.4 in 2011. In 2012, saw a major uptick of nearly 2 mph to 92.3. A fairly logical conclusion that I fully support is that the new pitching coach is attempting to salvage as much velocity as possible, and I am hoping for (expecting?) a larger increase next season. His contact rate and swinging strike rate are both at career bests and rising. Combining his career high k/9 rate with his second best GB% and highest GB/FB ratio should be leading to very nice results. An increasing BABIP each season, including being .033 points above career average in 2012 (.344 to .311) combined with a below career and league average strand rate leads me to label Porcello as a breakout candidate in 2013. One factor not leaning his way has been our porous infield defense for much of the season. His 3.91 FIP and 3.89 xFIP so far point to poor defense behind him. Another concern is his season to season BABIP has risen every year since 2009, with the jump from this year to last easily being the largest (.316 to .344). This could very easily be fluky, but it could just as easily point to stabilization of his career BABIP, though it should be sitting somewhere near .310 if the numbers are true. It certainly seems as though he was victimized by our poor defense more than any of our other starters, which makes logical sense due to his lower strikeout rate and higher groundball tendencies. While he’s never likely to be the second coming of Justin Verlander that he was advertised as, he still has the ability to be a solid 3/4 type pitcher with an ERA in the 3.50-4 range in 200 innings or more, making him a very valuable commodity. At this point, I see him having the ceiling of Anibal Sanchez-type numbers. Whether he ever reaches this is uncertain, but this year seems to be another step in the right direction despite

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