Red Sox Rick Porcello Can Beat Up On Bad Teams

Apr 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello (22) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello (22) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello is 5-0 to start the 2016 season. He continues to look impressive, especially against bad-hitting teams.

One thing’s for sure: Porcello knows how to keep bad bats from hurting him. Good teams have to take care of business and be able to fend off terrible teams while competing against the better teams for a divisional title. They can’t let bad teams beat them because then the challenge is twice as hard to gain ground on the teams over .500. As it stands, Porcello’s five victories have helped the Red Sox earn a 15-10 record, good enough for first place in the American League East division, the same division that they were the cellar dwellers of last season.

Is that because the Red Sox are just that good? Or is that just because of the poor competition that the Red Sox have faced thus far?

In Porcello’s case, the righty from New Jersey has faced both. Out of five starts, Porcello has faced the Toronto Blue Jays twice, once in Toronto and once in Boston. The Blue Jays were expected to be an offensive juggernaut, but they stand at just 13th in the majors in runs scored (105) and 25th in batting average (.230). The other three teams to play Porcello? The Atlanta Braves (79 runs scored; .226 avg), the Tampa Bay Rays (77 runs scored; .221 avg), and Boston’s most-hated rival the New York Yankees (81 runs scored; 234 avg). These three teams are arguably the worst offensive teams thus far in 2016.

Does that mean Porcello just hasn’t been tested yet? Perhaps. It also could mean that he’s just doing his job.

Against the Yankees, Porcello shut out the Bronx bats, allowing only five hits and a walk in seven innings, while striking out six. In the game yesterday, against pretty much the same lineup, the Red Sox ace David Price allowed six runs on eight hits, a walk, and three strikeouts in seven innings. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Porcello is pitching any better or worse, per se, but the results speak volumes as to the happiness that Red Sox Nation is feeling for the pitcher they absolutely bashed in social media a year ago.

Scott Lauber of ESPN has added to the recent lovefest by stating that Porcello’s rebuild of his career started after he spent time on the disabled list in 2015, with a triceps strain. When he returned, “Porcello increased his sinker usage to 44 percent against lefties and 58 percent against righties and posted a 3.14 ERA in eight starts. This season, he has thrown his sinker 49 percent of the time to lefties and 57 percent to righties. The results have been as good as can be.”

Lauber also added that “according to [Red Sox pitching coach Carl] Willis, throwing more four-seam fastballs caused Porcello to raise his arm slot ever so slightly. It wasn’t until the final week of a lousy spring training, after reviewing video with Willis and fine-tuning his mechanics, that the 27-year-old right-hander made an adjustment that allowed his arm slot to click in.”

Has Porcello’s mindset also clicked in? How confident must he feel, after a horrendous 2015, to now be perfect so far this season? He has posted a 2.76 ERA, a triumph compared to his ERA in 2015. Only Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox (1.66 ERA) and Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs (1.00 ERA) have done better with five wins or more.

The issue then becomes comparing their respective oppositions. Arrieta has had to pitch against three teams in the top 15 for runs scored. Sale has only had to pitch against two teams in the top 15. Porcello has played twice against one team in the top 15.

Porcello may be on fire, but he will need to concentrate on staying consistent with that arm slot issue before everyone starts to jump on that bandwagon. Yet, you can’t blame Red Sox fans for maybe reserving a seat on it. Porcello is looking awfully good. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t regress against teams over .500 or else he may go back to being just plain awful.