Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello had another rough outing to extend a troubling trend pitching during day games.
Not everyone is a morning person. I’ll admit that I’m not ready to face the day without a cup of coffee and that isn’t always enough when an early wakeup call forces me out of my regular routine. Baseball players are creatures of habit so it stands to reason that they can be thrown off their game when their own routines are disrupted. Does that explain why Rick Porcello has struggled when the Boston Red Sox play during the day?
That seemed to be the case Sunday afternoon when Porcello took the mound for a 1:05 p.m. start against the Toronto Blue Jays. The right-hander was knocked around for five earned runs in six innings against one of the league’s worst lineups. He uncharacteristically walked four batters while striking out only two.
This is the same Jays team that Porcello dominated only a month ago in Toronto, holding them to one run over six innings in a Red Sox victory. Of course, that outing came at night.
The results of these two meetings with Toronto highlight a troubling trend that has developed with Porcello this season with his day/night splits. Porcello has been outstanding in night games with a 3.04 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 4.67 K/BB in eight starts. He’s been awful in eight games during the daytime, posting a 6.23 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and 1.70 K/BB.
Porcello has surrendered 4+ runs in half of his day games and that figure looks worse when you investigate further. Giving up three runs in only four innings, as Porcello did against the Baltimore Orioles in April, isn’t exactly promising. He allowed only two runs in his next outing against the Tampa Bay Rays but the 6:10 p.m. start time barely qualifies that outing as a day game. Only two of his eight starts during the day were considered quality starts.
Is Porcello’s Jekyll and Hyde routine a factor that the Red Sox need to be concerned about moving forward? Should they go as far as to rearrange their rotation to avoid sending Porcello to the mound before 7:00 p.m. local time? Well, let’s pump the brakes on any drastic reactions.
Porcello’s career splits show he’s always pitched a bit better at night but the gap isn’t anything to be worried about. He’s 94-73 with a 4.20 ERA in night games and 46-40 with a 4.41 ERA during the day.
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We also need to put some of Porcello’s ugliest day games into proper context. His first three starts of the season all came during the day with Porcello failing to last more than four innings in any of them. He allowed 14 runs over 11 1/3 innings to produce an unsightly 11.12 ERA through three starts.
Most of the Red Sox pitching staff stumbled out of the gate and Porcello was no exception. He pitched deep into October during Boston’s World Series run last year, racking up 206 2/3 innings between the regular season and postseason. The additional innings combined with a shorter offseason led the Red Sox to go easy on their pitchers in spring training. Porcello made only three spring starts for a total of 12 innings. While the reduced workload may prove to be in his best interest long term, it left Porcello ill-prepared to begin the season.
He wasn’t necessarily at his best in his last four day games but Porcello had pitched well enough for the Red Sox to win each of them prior to Sunday’s loss. Despite what his season splits tell us, Porcello is still the same pitcher regardless of what time the first pitch is scheduled for.