Rick Porcello: young pitcher, good pitcher, or both?

Verlander congratulates Porcello after his complete game victory at U.S. Cellular Field on September 10, 2013 - Jonathan Daniel

Can Rick Porcello shed the youth label and perform like the best of his peers?

Rick Porcello is a major league veteran, with five years under his belt.  Rick Porcello is also young, only 24 years old.  We are constantly reminded of this when Porcello is on the mound.

When I think of "young major leaguers", I have in mind 20 year old Bryce Harper, 21 year old Manny Machado, and 22 year old Mike Trout.

But in the world of pitchers, how does Porcello stack up among his young peers?  There are 33 starting pitchers with at least 10 starts this year who are no more than 24 years old.  There are 21 with at least 100 innings pitched.  More often than not, a team is using a youngster in their rotation.  Porcello compares favorably to most of these, but not the elite ones, with a 4.56 ERA, 12 wins, 162 innings pitched, 1.31 WHIP, and 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Chris Sale (age 24) reminded Tiger fans Monday night of his dominance.  Sale was used strictly in relief for his first two seasons, and has now started 56 games with 28 wins in his next two years.  When they talk about Sale, they talk about pitching excellence more often than youth.  This should be Porcello's goal.

Matt Harvey (age 24) pitched brilliantly for the Mets until partially tearing his ulnar collateral ligament.  Harvey was 36 starts and 12 wins into his career, with an ERA of 2.39.  Porcello's consistency and health are valuable.

Jose Fernandez (age 20) has burst onto the scene with the Marlins at the same age that Porcello debuted.  But Fernandez is striking out nearly ten per nine innings with a WHIP below one.  He has won eleven games pitching for a team with a far worse offense than the White Sox.  His durability is yet to be determined.

Patrick Corbin (age 23) was an All Star for the Diamondbacks this year, his second in the big leagues.  An ERA of 2.97 and WHIP of 1.08 have Arizona's fans thinking that they have found an ace for years to come.

Stephen Strasburg has returned from Tommy John surgery to pitch like an ace, though with only seven wins.  Striking out nearly ten per nine innings and a WHIP of 1.04 contribute to an ERA of 2.96.  He will be a free agent after three more seasons, unless the Nationals sign him to a long term contract.  When pitchers make the majors at a young age, it leads to free agency in their prime.  Porcello has two more years before free agency.

Madison Bumgarner (age 24) has emerged as the ace of the Giants' staff in his fifth season.  He has six starts in the playoffs, and two wins in World Series games.  This should be Porcello's goal, World Series victories.

As it is, Rick should be asking for some relief appearances down the stretch to prepare for an important postseason role.  Who better to relieve in a bases-loaded-one-out jam?  He made two relief appearances in each of the past two postseasons.

Last night Porcello took a step forward with his first complete game and 60th career win.  Next year Porcello can pitch in front of Jose Iglesias for a full season and put the excuses about bad ground ball defense to rest.  An ERA around 3.50 and 15 wins should earn him a starting role in the playoffs.  A few postseason wins later, he should be offered a very large contract extension.

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