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Is It Really Too Soon For Rick Porcello?

With The Rick Porcello Bandwagon continuing to rev up (Ken Rosenthal was the latest to put gas in the tank today - via Mack Avenue Tigers), I thought this analysis by MacRae needed to go onto the front page. He posted this in tthe comments this morning, and I don't know if everyone reads those (especially if you read through RSS), and this is definitely worth your time.

Thanks to MacRae for writing this (I encourage everyone to post their own thoughts, opinions, and editorials in the FanPosts, or quotes, photos, or videos you find interesting in the FanShots), and I hope you enjoy it.

-- Ian

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I went looking for other examples of pitchers who had limited experience in the minor leagues being brought up for a full to semi-full season of work in the majors at age 20. Despite comments by people like John Sickels, it tends to be something that happens quite often, though it still tends to be a pretty small sample.

(IP are rounded off)

2000 Rick Ankiel: 175 IP (MLB)
2001 CC Sabathia: 180 IP (MLB)
2002 Oliver Perez: 90 IP (MLB) + 72 IP (A+, AA) = 162 IP
2003 Jeremy Bonderman: 162 IP (MLB)
2004 Zack Greinke: 145 IP (MLB) + 29 IP (AAA) = 174 IP
2005 Felix Hernandez: 84 IP (MLB) + 88 IP (AAA) = 172 IP
2008 Clayton Kershaw: 107 IP (MLB) + 72 IP (A+, AA) = 179 IP

(Other notables who cracked the majors but with limited IP at age 20 include Scott Kazmir, Edwin Jackson and Matt Cain.)

The only big difference between these guys and Porcello is that they all had between 40 and 70 IP at levels that Porcello simply skipped (Sabathia had 85 IP, Ankiel had 161 IP, Bonderman had none).

Each had between 100 and 160 IP in A+ and/or AA the year before they were called up (Porcello pitched 125 innings at A+). When they were called up none pitched more than 180 IP that season whether or not it was combined with their minor league IP that year.

Porcello’s situation mirrors Sabathia, Ankiel, Kershaw, Bonderman and Greinke. Like Bonderman he’d start pitching in the Bigs right out of the gate (Greinke started in May). But unlike Bonderman he’d be on a team that expects to contend and may not be able to shut him down if they’re in the middle of a pennant race come September.

Sabathia, Ankiel and Kershaw were in a “postseason position” and The Dodgers in particular did a pretty remarkable job keeping Kershaw’s IP down. From the looks of his gamelog his pitch count was around 90 – 95 and he only went 100+ 4 times. The benefit to The Dodgers last season however was an excellent bullpen that could take up the slack for carefully handling Kershaw.

Provided the Tigers are as careful with Porcello as The Dodgers were (and are) with Kershaw, I have no problem putting him on the team. The question is if the bullpen can handle that extra work load. I have no doubt that it could in normal circumstances but if the Tiger rotation continues to underperform, there could be a huge problem.