In what might be the least surprising development of the offseason (which is either now a month old or a day old, depending on when you consider baseball season to have ended), Rick Porcello was named the Tigers Rookie of the Year by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association today.
But saying there was really no other choice for the award doesn't mean Porcello wasn't hugely deserving of the honor.
Kid Rick went 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts for the Tigers this season. He had the second-highest win total on the team's pitching staff and the third-lowest ERA among the starting rotation. By the end of the season, Porcello was the Tigers' second-most dependable starting pitcher. In September, he went 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA.
If the Tigers couldn't start Justin Verlander in that AL Central tiebreaker on October 6, Porcello was the pitcher who gave them the best chance to win the division. For a 20-year-old who seemed ticketed for Double-A before the season, yet surprised everyone by being the team's best pitcher in Spring Training, that's probably the best indicator of just how successful his rookie season was.
Though Porcello was outstanding at times - he was 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA in May - it wasn't a smooth ride all the way through for Kid Rick. Midway through the season, he looked every bit the rookie. Think about how bad he looked in an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball start against the White Sox. That was in July, when Porcello went 1-2 with an 8.79 ERA. And that was with the Tigers giving him a two-week rest around the All-Star break to help keep his innings down.
That break also gave Porcello a chance to retool his pitching repertoire a bit, reportedly ditching his curveball in favor of a slider that he'd stopped throwing in the minors. While he didn't become a strikeout pitcher after that, that change gave batters a different look, allowing Porcello to get more strikeouts and pop-ups, rather than solely depending on groundball outs.
How will Porcello do in his sophomore season, after making a jump from 125 innings last year in the minors to 170 in his first major league go-round? As Jason Beck points out on his blog, the Bill James Handbook predicts a bit of a regression, projecting a 10-11 record and 4.25 ERA in 195 innings. But that's just one opinion. What do you expect from Kid Rick next year?