MLB.com's Jason Beck wondered if Rick Porcello was experiencing a sophomore jinx. I'm going to go ahead and say no for two reasons:
The first is that it's way too early to be spending time worrying about such things. At Bless You Boys, I've tried to avoid doing too much analysis of the season because it's too young. The stats just haven't accumulated enough to give us a lot of solid ground to stand on. Yet the stats we have indicate Porcello's getting results that are a lot worse than he should be. That should even out.
The second reason is that I think -- and I've said this before -- expectations for Porcello were set too high by some. Obviously, even the lowest expectations should not put Porcello anywhere near the 6.46 ERA he has right now. However he might not take as big a step forward as some believe.
The reason I make both of those claims? Peripheral numbers.
Long story short, Porcello is fine. I wouldn't worry at all..
Do you want to know why Porcello's ERA is 6.46 right now? I'll tell you:
Batters are getting lucky. His batting average on balls in play is nearly .400. That is pretty near impossible for even the best and luckiest batters to maintain. So it's safe to say that number will come way down. While it varies a bit pitcher by pitcher, and each pitcher sees a bit of variation from year to year, .400 against just isn't going to happen. That number is .100 more than you'd expect if you selected a random pitcher, and .120 more than Porcello's two seasons of professional baseball. So I think it's safe to say he's going to give up fewer baserunners in most games than he has during his first three.
The second reason: Too many base runners allowed have been scoring. This is the first of several repeatable skills I always look at for a pitcher when guessing how he's going to do. In Porcello's case, 36 percent of baserunners have scored. During his two professional years, that number is closer to 26 or 27 percent.
I'm going to stop right here to make a warning: Because Porcello has only been in professional baseball for two seasons, his repeatable skills are subject to change a bit as he gets more innings under his belt. The fact he's pitched just 15 innings this season also tells us his indicator stats this year are subject to change, too. As always, the more information, the better. However, I still feel pretty confident about my conclusions.
Two more reasons to feel good about Porcello: His strikeout rate is the best of his career. You'd expect that to improve as he matures more physically and mentally. His walk rate is the lowest of his career (a sparking 2.35 BB/9). These numbers tell us he actually has shown better command this year than last.
Taken together with a normalized home run rate, his xFIP is actually 4.29. In other words, he's pitched much better than his results.
None of that says he doesn't have room to pitch better. As he pointed out to Beck:
"When I get it down to where I need to be, where I'm consistently hitting the bottom of the zone with it, those will turn into choppers and that sort of thing," Porcello said. "It's not quite there. Again, I don't know why it's not there, but it's not sinking quite as much as it was at the end of last year. I'll figure it out, though."
So he's made a few mistakes and it's shown up in the stats, too. Makes sense. But I wouldn't expect them to continue.
Now like I said, the peripherals don't exactly indicate an ace pitcher either. Porcello still has to learn to strike out more. When it's all said and done, an ERA around 3.95 again this year wouldn't surprise me. And the faster he finds his strikeout pitch, the faster that number will come down.