The Boston Red Sox will send right-hander Rick Porcello to the mound to face Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber for Monday’s series opener.
Monday night will feature a matchup between the last two pitchers to win the American League Cy Young Award, as Rick Porcello takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox opposing Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber.
Porcello earned the Cy Young in 2016 when he went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over a career-high 223 innings. His emergence as the staff’s ace was unexpected given his brutal first year with the Red Sox the previous season.
The Jekyll and Hyde routine continued last year as Porcello reverted to his underachieving ways. His ERA inflated to 4.65 to go along with a 1.39 WHIP. Porcello led the league with 17 losses while allowing the most home runs (38) and hits (236).
The results have fallen somewhere in between for Porcello this year. He enters the night 15-5 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. That’s a long way from Cy Young contention but Porcello has actually been a bit better than those mediocre numbers suggest. His ERA is skewed by two starts in which he was shelled by the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up 15 runs over six innings. Porcello owns a 3.27 ERA over his other 23 starts, which is much more in line with his 2016 season.
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Granted, every pitcher looks better when you take away their two worst outings. However, Porcello’s’ 3.75 FIP suggests he’s been quite a bit better than his ERA shows.
The 22 wins were a significant factor in Porcello winning the Cy Young two years ago but the real feather in his cap was a major-league best 5.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s not an overpowering strikeout artist but he racks of his fair share. Limiting walks has always been his real bread and butter though. Porcello has a modest 8.9 K/9 this season with a more impressive 2.1 BB/9. That results in a 4.17 K/BB ratio that ranks 9th among AL starters. He’s not at the same level he was at in 2016 yet Porcello remains among the elite in this category.
Kluber is having another great season following last year’s Cy Young campaign when he went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. He’s 15-6 with a 2.68 ERA and 0.92 WHIP this season. While those numbers aren’t as eye-popping as last year’s, they still place him among the league’s best.
However, he is showing signs of regression in other areas. Most notable is his declining strikeout rate. After posting a career-high 11.7 K/9 last year, Kluber’s strikeout rate has dipped to 8.6 K/9. That’s his lowest rate since 2013.
His home run rate is also up a bit at 1.1 HR/9 compared to 0.9 HR/9 last year. That may not seem like a drastic change yet Kluber has already matched last year’s total with 21 home runs allowed. The next time he coughs up the long ball will tie his career-high and we’re still in August.
Fewer strikeouts and more homers are a bad combination. The result is a 3.31 FIP, his highest since he was a rookie in 2012.
Neither of these pitchers will factor into the Cy Young debate this year but they’ve still been good. The Red Sox and Indians have loaded offenses, each led by a pair of MVP candidates, but it’s the pitching that will take center stage to open the series.