Boston Red Sox: No Shelby Miller, no problem
Jul 24, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) pitches against the Detroit Tigers during first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Ah, you knew this one was coming, no? Porcello is perhaps the most polarizing pitcher on the Boston roster and with good reason. He was signed to an ill-conceived extension before even throwing a pitch during last season’s offseason. So noted was his decline in performance, that arguably the ire of the fan base is towards Porcello more than any other player, outside of perhaps Hanley Ramirez. For an offseason and, indeed, two years of abject failure, that alone speaks volumes.
Porcello finished 2015 with an unsightly ERA of 4.92 and FIP of 4.13, which doesn’t really tell the full story of how badly he got rocked on numerous, successive outings. Teams like the Toronto Blue Jays were hitting dingers off his stuff as if you or I was pitching it. Why then should Porcello be under consideration for the rotation at all, let alone potentially sitting by it’s front end?
Two reasons. First, Porcello isn’t normally that catastrophically bad. Spending four years previous pitching in the Majors for the Detroit Tigers, Porcello was a known commodity. A sinkerball pitcher with a 92 MPH fastball able to go deep into games and provide consistent, if not quite ace-like, results. His 2014 campaign saw a 3.43 ERA and 3.64 FIP, comparable to Miller’s if not actually better, in 204 innings pitched. In short, what we saw in 2015 for Porcello isn’t his norm, not even close.
Boston paid the price for not acquiring a top of the rotation pitcher and Porcello, still only 26 years old, felt the heat as he tried to accommodate for the club that had just paid through the nose for his services. His pitches were up and thus so was his long ball rate. He pitched recklessly, poorly, uncharacteristically. In the end he wound up on the disabled list with only tenuous evidence of an actual disability.
Still, that isn’t Porcello. Proof? When he came back from the disabled list, things looked different. His first outing back, on August 26, at the Chicago White Sox saw him deliver a 7 inning shutout and get the win for Boston. To contrast, his last game prior to heading to the DL was also against the White Sox, only this time he was shelled for 6 runs on 10 hits in only 2 innings. Lest you think it fluke, Porcello was thrown to the New York Yankee lions for his next outing and only 1 earned run on 3 hits, striking out a career high 13 batters. For the rest of the year, Porcello was almost exactly what we thought he would be, a solid number 2 type pitcher. Indeed, he had an ERA of 3.53, FIP of 3.57 and increased his K/9 to 8.83 in the second half of 2015.
When you consider that Porcello was pitching in our very own AL East, if that level of performance is sustainable then he’s already ahead of Miller with only one extra year in the tank. And, to cap it all off, Porcello now is able to slot in behind Price, the pitcher he excelled behind in his breakout 2014 Tigers year and should feel far less pressure to perform as advertised. Indeed, his contract is very much the going rate these days.
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In the end of course, none of the players listed could step up and fill the position as a number 2 in the Red Sox rotation. Or perhaps they all might. Who knows, but one thing is for certain, if the Miller trade is anything to go by, they will get every chance to try and achieve it.